Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Homestretch

As a kid, I was very shy, so clearly not very popular.  I did not bother running or campaigning for any elected position like student government.  It is not because I was not interested in a leadership role, just not in the organized hierarchy position.    It was during my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I soon realized what my personal definition of leadership would be, by setting example.

When I came to my current employment, my job would require me to join my first, last, and only union job.  Do not misunderstand me, I appreciate everything that my union has negotiated for me, such as group health and life insurance which prior to the Affordable Care Act, I would not qualify for the insurance because of prior conditions.

Being a fighter by nature, a defender for those unable to fend for themselves, I made a decision to run for shop steward in my department.  A shop steward is an elected co-worker, generally quite knowledgeable with the contract we work under, and various other workers rights laws.  Because personalities sometimes conflict, the shop steward also needs to be willing to represent a co-worker regardless of any ill feelings.  In my fourteen years in my current department, I ran thirteen times, and lost all thirteen.  I was the “Susan Lucci” of my department.

In 2009, I made a decision that in spite of not being able to earn forty to fifty votes needed to be a shop steward in my department, I was going to take a shot at campaigning for school board in the school district I live.  (That story is posted earlier this year).  The fact that I would need 100 times the votes to earn a school board position compared to the perennial losses that I suffered at work, I felt I could achieve victory.

I fell short in the election of 2011, as did two of my running mates.  But two other of my running mates did earn seats onto the school board.  And it was their encouragement that convinced me to take another run, this time for 2013.  I lost that election in 2011 by 196 votes.  Only 11,000 voted of the potential 50,000 voters.  But I recorded over 9000 votes.  I personally know maybe a couple dozen people locally, and definitely know less than one hundred people, period.

Besides the personality quirk that I have of not wanting to quit or concede, there is a rush that I get, and I am sure that others get during campaign season.  The schedule is exhausting, as now that we are in October, I am out of my house nearly seven days a week, and usually all weekend long attending fundraisers, public events, and going door to door, meeting potential voters.  There is a tremendous feeling I get, when I am responded to in a positive way.  I am congratulated for stepping up.  I am looked to for hope and help for those struggling.  I am being counted on to make things better.

During my first campaign, there are many memories that stand out in my mind.  And this campaign is no different.  This has been a marathon weekend for me.  So my movements are a bit robotic or automatic.  I was not prepared for one open door that I had today.  I will respect her privacy by not revealing her name.  But after dealing with a late heatwave in the middle of October, today was not one of my fun days, until 5:30 this evening.

I was greeted by a jester.  Well, it was actually a mother who was playing with her children who were also in costume, but the mother was wearing a jester’s outfit.  I could not help but chuckle as she proceeded to explain the circumstances to me, but it did not matter.  She broke the monotony that I had been feeling today.  I explained the platforms that myself and my running mates were campaigning on.  And then she told me what I wanted to hear, that she would support the four of us with her votes.  You see, besides being an outstanding mother to her children, she was also a teacher.  Just one of the many who for years has had to listen to constant unjustified criticisms and fabrications about an occupation that we all rely on for the sake of our futures.

It means a lot to be relied and counted on.  Today is just one of many that I will look back upon and remember vividly.  I hope someday that I get the chance to see that teacher again, only under the circumstances of her congratulating me on a  victory.  And all I ask for, is to be able to look at her and know, that she feels hope again.  Hope that the district’s leadership will be the one to set the example of restoring respect to the teaching profession.

I have never won a campaign.  I won my first election this year, finally of the position of shop steward.  I have not let my co-workers down.  I hope this is a sign of things to come next month.

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