It was my least favorite part of the job, assembling those No on Metro signs back in 2012. Day in, day out, any spare moment we had – and those moments were few and far between, but the five of us would do it together, coffee in our ever-dustifying hands. The door would open, and there would be the guy with the dolly. More signs. Oh, here we go. I’d kept one just as a tangible reminder of things I’d done, so I could hang it up with my Women of Montrose Action Network charity-event apron and all the signs I had hanging about my tiny home from campaigns for which I’d volunteered.
At that time in 2012, I never would’ve imagined that I’d be assembling my own seven years later. Gone is the cameraderie of that little office on Richmond, but it’s still a meditative exercise after all this time. The smell of the metal and the carbon from the stakes brings the mind back to truly exciting times. (I may save a stake just to waft that smell across my face after the election is over. It’s like aromatherapy.)
50 down, to go to the early voting locations, and many, many more to go for people in the District C neighborhoods who want them. It’s not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for the faint of wallet. Thank goodness enough donors have come through so that I can finally have a presence in the district, beyond the civic meetings and the one-on-ones, even though that’s ultimately what keeps me going.
I ran into a friend on the street, a member of our working homeless population. His name is James White, and he’s an artist – I’ve seen him weave a cross out of palm leaves, the same kind of palm leaves that people would spend an hour weaving together when I was growing up in Catholic school. He wove it together in five minutes, and made it into a big heart, because he believes that any God out there has a big heart for everyone. He never asks anyone for money, he just gives his gifts to people. But the things he makes are genuine art, and he makes enough of a living to ensure that he has food every day, clean clothing to withstand whatever the weather situation is, and hopefully, a safe place to lay his head at night.
People like James deserve a shot. If I’m elected, I’m going to hire him to teach our homeless population life skills, artisan skills. James White is a Vietnam vet, someone who the system has failed so far, and he has no substance-abuse issues or anything of the like. He suffers from physical disabilities that keep him from having a “regular” job, but they don’t keep him from creating. He’s a colorful thread in the beautiful tapestry that is our Houston. And we’re failing him right now.
He wants nothing more than a tiny little apartment he can go to each night – and while we’ve done so much in that aspect, and we’re making progress, it is so far from enough to care for the people who are most underserved. I want people like James to be able to do their work and know there is a soft pillow waiting at home every night. To feel the turn of that key that says “this is my home,” a thing that so many take for granted. People like him are those who will keep this city moving forward.
I’ve been both “home-insecure” and “food-insecure” many times in my life, to use the popular terms. (Basically, they mean you don’t know where you’re going to live and/or eat, or how you’re going to pay those student loans.) I’m okay with being open about it. It might make you think about how many people in your life are going through things they may never tell you. So many people in Houston are one paycheck away from homelessness, starvation, abject poverty. The fact that we’re a collection of small communities has helped me in the past, so whenever I have the resources, I help people in return – especially because I’ll get them to admit they’re in trouble when they’re pretending not to be. I know that need for artifice and the “stiff upper lip,” and it gets you nowhere.
In conclusion: love yourself and love those around you. Reach out. Fight hard for what you believe in. Listen. Care. Use your imagination to come up with new ways to help. You don’t have to run for office to put forth an idea that might change all of humanity, or even just one person’s life.
And never be afraid to spend a Friday night assembling some yard signs. You get good at it after a while.