As I continue on this journey to serve as your next State Senator from Legislative District 24, I hear stories from so many people. Stories that will break your heart and stories that will make you jump with joy. I hear so many stories that it is vital for me to also tell one. Here it goes.
I was in grade school; it was cold outside and recall my mother saying “Ryan, get in the car.” I did not know why or where we were going. I just remember this look of defeat, frustration, and shame on her face. My parents were both unemployed at the time and struggling to find work. So, I got in the car, and my mother kept putting her hands on her face while seeming frustrating and anxious. We did not talk the whole way down to the gray building we pulled up in front of, but even her asking me to get out of the car once we arrived seemed difficult for her to do. It was almost like she had reached the end of a road and did not know what to do next.
We got out of the car, went up the steps to this gray building, and went inside a big office filled with cubicles. She grabbed a number from the red machine, and we sat down to wait for our turn. Still, I did not know why we were here. Other people were also waiting and had their kids with them. They also seemed uneasy, nervous and had this look of defeat, the same one my mother had since we got in the car to drive there.
Eventually, our number was called. We went to this cubical where a woman in a red sweater was sitting. Almost immediately, my mother broke down, frustrated, anxious and nervous. She told the woman in the red sweater there was no money to pay the utility bill or feed her kids. She even said that feeding her kids was more important than herself. The lady told her that everything would be OK and that she would make sure we get the help we needed.
After going through a modest process, the woman in the red sweater asked us if we would like to take a box of food home, my mother said: “we would like that very much.” Once we got through the process, there was a bit of relief that came over my mother. It almost felt like she had overcome this defeat and instead felt relieved.
The first time I saw food stamps, they had a distinctiveness to them with such bright and bold colors as red, blue, green, and orange. For my mother, using them was just a difficult as it was to ask for them. But she did because we had to, and there was no other way at the time to put food on the table.
I share this because it is important to remember that we all have our weak moments in life. We all have our struggles, and we all have our times of need. Tens of thousands of people live in poverty in Legislative District 24, and yet our current elected officials focus on ribbon-cutting ceremonies, posing for pictures and opposing tax relief for military retirees (State House Vote | State Senate Vote).
Where is the focus on those families going through the same thing I had to with my mother?
This is what I see as important. Fighting for people who need it most. That is what being an elected official means to me.