Many years ago, I worked for a major corporation. Inside this location, several “community outreach” activities took place several times a year. One of those, was a blood drive. Having several thousand employees, it was a major donation drive, made even more popular because donors were often given “gifts” for giving the gift of their blood. I would see some of my co-workers come back with some major swag from windbreaker jackets to coolers, all kinds of things.
But that was all I got to do as far as blood drives went, look. As a cancer survivor, I am ineligible to donate blood because of the my blood being compromised from my radiation and chemotherapy treatments, even though they were over thirty years ago. I understood the rules for donating blood and why they were in place, but when I asked if there was any way that I could help, to make a difference, that I might be able to get some of that fine merchandise, I was told “no.”
As an advocate, I was kind of taken back by the short response. I know, you have blood donors, you have the phlebotomists, and of course the other staff of blood banks. But do you mean to tell me, you have no need for any other help with such a critical effort?
If you follow this blog, you know my role as an advocate. You also know that I can be determined when I hit a stumbling block when I try to help one way and I cannot. I find another.
With my health issues, my days of participating in actual protests are long over, though if it were not for Covid19, I would likely find it hard to not want to stand by, supporting efforts against police brutality and racism. But unlike my efforts, there are ways that I can still make a difference in these intense times for racial equality.
Back in 2009, as my older daughter was about to begin elementary education, there was turmoil in our school district. The school board at that time, filled with bullies, had taken their negotiations public, humiliating the teachers union. Again, if you know me, I do not tolerate bullies, and there were nine of them sitting on that board. I attended only one school board meeting to protest the way the school board representatives were conducting themselves, and faced accusations of being disingenuous and unscrupulous. Such big words to be used against one solitary citizen making comments during the public commentary of the meeting.
And with that, I made a decision to campaign for school board. I never even ran for any position in student government. But I soon found out, that unlike my fear of the anonymity I had in school would prevent my likely election, my skills as an advocate, and accompanied by four other strong candidates, soon found ourselves in a position to finally break a stronghold in our school district for decades.
I had no experience. But I had a desire to make a difference. I am all about treating people with respect. Regardless of my feelings for or against the teachers at the original time, I did not like the way they were being treated, especially publicly. And soon, not only did I receive recognition from my well educated and experienced running mates for my ideas, our adversaries soon found out, not only how resourceful we were, able to discover “behind closed door” activities, but with our lack of being politicians, we did not make decisions as politicians and they did not know how to prepare for us, or deal with us.
We lost that first attempt, barely. Four of us lost by less than 300 votes, two less than 200 votes, and one actually lost by a few dozen. The end of the night, of course none of us were sitting on the school board, but we did “win” the battle. We made a difference because we got recognized. A simple concept, people not getting out to vote, even just 300 more in a district of 60,000 voters, was all it would have taken.
So, we kept trying. Two of our slate got elected that next election, and a third finally not only got elected the following election, but was voted as school board president. Today, the entire board from 2009 has been replaced.
My last thirty years, and as many as I have left, I have always been, and always will be an advocate for as many causes as I can: cancer, adoption, long term cancer survivorship, discrimination, parental rights and the list goes on. I do what I can, when I can, as my energy allows. I have my physical limits but I find ways to help in other ways.
Looking back, perhaps my motivation may have been wrong with the blood bank. Because I have been able to make more of a difference when appreciation, gratitude, and success are enough of a motivation.
My daughters have witnessed my many forms of advocacy. And they both have great hearts filled with compassion and empathy. In recent years, I have seen their actions to help others whether in school or in public.
A couple of weeks ago, on Tuesday, my older daughter made a post of a black “jpeg,” in support of “Black Out Tuesday,” in memory and support of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. She knew what she was doing. And what made it even better, she did it on her own.
Over the last sixteen years, I have done my best as their father, to set examples for them in regard to advocacy, money, relationships, education, and so on. It is when I see something that has been done, unprompted by me, that I can see the impact that I have indeed had on my daughters. And I am proud, as always.