This past week, I’ve had chronic problems with my bike! I go out, ride around to knock doors, and then the gears locks in place and I can’t even turn the pedals. This has led to some significant work-outs as I use my bike as a scooter to navigate various neighborhoods. But there’s beauty even in that. I scooted my way down John R and saw in my periphery that was a another woman pushing a bike! This is not normal. Something in me just called me to go back and I make a wide awkward turn. We immediately shared about our woes (her tire was extremely flat) and got to talking. I told her about my work. She told me she is homeless and needs a place for her kids ASAP. They are living with family in a situation that is not healthy for anyone and she just had to get out and ride the bike until “splat” the tire popped. I connected her with the amazing team of housing placement counselors at UCHC and we just about cried at the serendipity of it all. She says that if she ends up living in my district she would love to vote for me. “You’re just like me!” she said.
I’ve gotten into the habit of asking people to call me when and if they decide they want to vote for me. This led to a beautiful moment in the middle of a hectic day when I listed to a voicemail from an unknown number. The caller said “Good morning Michele this is Mr. Smith. I hope I’m calling the right number. Anyways you have my vote and I hope you made it alright with your broken bike. Have a blessed day.”
Thursday afternoon I walked from my house to a Girl Scout Troop meeting a few blocks away. I crossed paths along the way with Hamtramck’s mayor Karen Majewski. Both heading to the same place! More amazing women from our community converged on the little St. Peter AME church and yet we found only two little girl scouts awaiting us. I had a strange moment when I realized that I knew one of the girls but couldn’t figure out where. You’re the one with the hearts! She said. And then it all came back to me- I had met her and about 10 of her neighborhood children. She had made such an impression on me that I posted to instragram a black image with the following caption:
This is a placeholder for the memory of one of the most precious moments I have had in this campaign.
Canvassing by bike, I passed a home where a little boy ran up to me. I gave him one of my cards to share with his family and soon there were 4 little boys around me. I gave them all felt hearts from my bag (literature for the grownups, hearts for the kiddos) and then there were 8 little girls with their hands in the pile of hearts, all trying to find just the right one. I thought I was going to run out! The kids kept coming out of nowhere!
One of the older girls read aloud from the literature and asked me questions about what a state representative does (Help make good laws/help stop bad ones!) she told me how it used to be safe to go to the corner store now it’s not anymore and they really want to make a good neighborhood.
Finally, I began to say my goodbyes and the group converged on me in a mass group hug. I had a birds eyes view of their little arms and hands and scrunched faces and they squeezed.
It was the kind of thing you can’t take a picture of but oh my god. Amazing.
We had a beautiful little “meeting” where the young girls interviewed us and “presented” us to the rest of the group. I don’t think I earned a single vote but it was the highlight of my week.
Last week, two invisible lines were crossed. For one thing, we traversed the annual foreclosure deadline. Our offices at work were fille with scared people with money order and bright orange delinquency papers and questions questions questions. We made mistakes, we performed miracles, we dealt with the daily workload in the background. Phew. Well, then there was word that there is still a 21-day redemption period. Yay for homeowners, boo for renters. We never quite know what’s happening, we can only do are best with what we think we know at the time.
On that same day, June 7, there were exactly 2 months left before the big election. Two months! The rule in campaigns is that there are 3 resources: money, time, and votes. All of them are finite, but time is the only one that gets smaller day by day. How, oh how, will I fit enough time in these remaining days to gather up the money that will help me get the votes I need to win two short months from now?
It helps to remember that the work and the campaign are related. Everything we do at UCHC is within the confines of the laws that we have now, but, as I wrote in a recent op-ed “Government Can Stop Government Foreclosure.” If I am elected, I will have the tools to realize these ideas and many more. The hope is that, with good, human-centered policy, my comrades-in-arms in the housing world won’t have to work quite so hard. We can call it the “Ted needs a vacation” plan!
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