Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When You Wonder How the Campaign is Going

When people hear that my husband is running for Congress, I can see the curiosity and confusion on their faces.  There are so many ideas about what that must mean for us. They try to connect the presuppositions about running for office with what they know to be true about us and the questions start....

Don't you have to start small? Like local politics? No. That's just the way things often happen in established parties.

Don't you have to have a lot of money?  No.  You need enough money to file and then you need to run a campaign.  Campaigns can be run a lot of different ways.  Having lots of money helps, I suppose, to a point, but when it crosses the line of buying a candidates votes through purchased lobbyists, the process turns dirty.  (We certainly welcome your support)

Don't you have to go door to door to campaign?  That's a traditional approach, but think about how you feel when a politician comes knocking on your door during dinner.

The truth is, a campaign can be run as creatively and non-traditionally as you want to run it. What matters most, I am learning, is your heart for the work.

The truth is that things were going along pretty well for us for several months, and it was fun.  But then in September, Robb's day job with a start-up company ended unexpectedly, throwing us into the choppy seas of tremendous insecurity.  We are regular people.  We try to be good stewards of our money, but we couldn't thrive for long without a new financial plan, especially with our first kid in college.  Robb has always been a strong provider for our family, allowing me to be flexible in the ways I support the family.   For as long as I have known him, he has had as many as three jobs, using his time wisely and still being here for his family.  As the time of receiving a regular paycheck began to slip away, the future was just not coming into focus for us.  I am usually buoyant in these times of doubt and scarcity, but for some reason, during this season, I was frankly scared.  I gave in to a scarcity mindset and for a couple of weeks grouched at anything that suggested holiday plans.

The brain craves predictability.  When normal routines of thinking, planning and acting are upended, it is exhausting, because the thoughts try to proceed as usual, hit roadblocks, bounce backward and then try again to fully absorb the new reality.  There were more than a few sleepless nights while my brain tried again and again to plan, and could not proceed.  It didn't help when the final paycheck from the last job was delayed for almost two weeks with no guarantee when it would come, if at all.

The campaign at that point began to seem like a cruel joke.  How could we help other people when our own needs were in such an uncertain state?

As the month drew to a close with no paycheck, I shopped at Aldi for groceries and rationed my trips out to save on gas money.  I refused to turn on the heat in the house.  I asked my friends to pray and cried on their shoulders.  I switched to ground coffee instead of fresh beans, and contemplated how at some point a budget gets ridiculous.  But somehow, against all odds, we were making it.  Unexpected resources appeared:  we had accidentally paid our home insurance twice, and they sent a refund.  An adoption subsidy we had submitted paperwork for a million years ago came through for Charleigh's braces.  I sold one of the most expensive things in my Etsy store.  All of a sudden, we looked at each other and realized that we had made it through somehow.  We stopped white knuckling for a minute and enjoyed Thanksgiving with our kids and friends.

There's not a doubt in my mind that nobody currently in Congress is double checking their personal budget to see what they can cut back on.  None of them are wondering if they will make it through next month on their current salary.  They aren't stressed about signing up for a new, much more expensive health insurance plan.   But most of the people I know are in that position regularly.  People are working as hard as they ever have and their dignity is being worn away wondering why it doesn't seem to be enough.  Our month of uncertainty was a gift to me.  It reminded me of why we are running in the first place.  I was reminded that we need representatives who know how it feels to live with financial uncertainty and have the motivation to give regular people fair circumstances to help them move forward.  

About the same time I first heard about Brand New Congress in January of 2016, I received a message from an art curation and procurement company named Kalisher.  They work with designers and architects to either create or find artists to make art for public spaces.  For the past year, we have worked to narrow down the vision for a 25 by 7 foot mosaic created from Blue Willow and other blue and white Asian themed dishes.  The further we have gone in the process, the more confident I have grown that this is an ideal project for me.  And as the pieces finally fell into place for me to receive the down-payment for my work,  it slowly dawned on me what was happening: I would be able to support our family while Robb turned his attention, energy and creativity to the campaign.

Back in October, when we were interviewed by Rob Bell for his podcast, I had expected to speak briefly at the top of the show to set up the main story of Robb's campaign.  I never expected Rob to become so interested in my part of the story and his enthusiasm was a confidence booster I didn't know I would need.  Many times in the coming weeks, though, I would play over in my head the words he said to me: "There's a feisty, scrappy thing about you."  When I would get tired, or discouraged or wondered if I could really do anything to help or make a change in the world, I  would remind myself of those words and find the strength to dig a little deeper and keep going.

It is a curious time to be a woman.  Never in my life do I recall feeling more aware and more impacted by the national conversation.  The equality of women, their right to being treated with decency and respect, their place in roles of leadership in the world and in the church is my daily concern.  Try to understand how proud I am that in this year, I was ordained, took the front seat of leadership of my church and now am supporting my family financially with the work of my hands and my heart.

My theology leads me to believe not that I made this happen on my own, nor that God is using me as a puppet to play out some agenda, but rather, that God and I are in this together.  I feel doubt at times, and God encourages. I show up and God magnifies the effort.   I make no cocky claims about the results of the campaign and election, but I hope you feel inspired by this part of the story.   Do not be afraid.  You have more agency than you know.  Ten years ago, I started cutting up dishes and creating art.  A decade later, I'm helping to change the world.  

So how is the campaign going, you ask? Well, in the words of our friend, Rob Bell,   - So Good!  


Unknown said...

However the campaign goes...you and Robb are making the world, at least NWARK, a much better place.

I was thrilled to listen to you two being interviewed on the RobCast.


tushar soni said...
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