As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been advocating for my son's school in the redistricting planning that has been going on in Fayette County. I had a meeting with my son's school principal yesterday. She had been to another school for a meeting and came back with a water bottle branded with the name of the school across the front. So you are aware, some schools are branding their own drinking water and our school is asking the United Way for underwear and socks. Did I mention that these two schools are just 2 miles apart in my community? So yesterday these kids needed my tenacity and data junkie talents to politically navigate an attendance boundary debate, but today they need my willingness to wrangle coats.
You see, our school has been having a coat drive since November because many of our kids don't have warm enough coats to endure Kentucky winters. While we have had a pretty mild January, February and March may have different plans for us. So anyway, we have been collecting coats from our kids whose families are financially faring better in this world and we will have those coats laundered and then bring them back to school and make sure that each of our less fortunate kids has a coat that they need to protect them against the elements as most of them walk to school. It's a pretty cool recycle, reuse effort if you ask me. Fayette County does NOT provide bus service if you live within a mile of the school. Most of our financially struggling families live within that one mile boundary, so to add insult to injury, these kids don't have sufficient protection against 10 degree windchills. And my job today is to wrangle the donated coats at school, call around to try and find a dry cleaner or laundry mat who might be willing to donate the laundering services. If I don't find one, I will be blocking off a few hours in my schedule next week to wash them at a laundry mat myself. Most likely some of of my phenomenal Lansdowne parent counterparts will join me to lend a hand at the Loads of Suds.
And when these coats are handed out to these very needy & very deserving kids, my Mom will be smiling. I'm not unconvinced she wasn't responsible for my 5:00am wake up call this morning. My constant self-assessment of how much I am giving back to my community stems from my parents. Instead of being a nature vs. nurture consideration, I am convinced it is a nature & nurture argument. I mentioned my Dad's school board service in my last blog post. And that was merely one board of the dozens that he and my mother served on throughout my life.
My entire childhood was spent watching my parents serve on various community boards, give of their time and talents to the less fortunate, serve as Scout leaders, and make a difference in the lives of those who needed it, while holding public officials accountable.
While my Dad is highly intelligent, he is a relatively quiet analytic observer who uses his voice selectively. My mother was quite different in her approach. She was a politically savvy, brilliant & witty, sharp tongued firecracker who never backed down from a fight. Did I mention she was raised by a US Army Colonel?
Before she had children, and even a few times after that, she and one of her best friends would listen to the police scanners and show up in areas of town less fortunate than ours, and they would witness how the police handled the situation. Who does that? Genie did. And this was soon after the civil rights era and if I am anything like her, I know what was going through her head. The thought process was probably something like this: Well, just because they have achieved more rights under the law, it doesn't mean that anyone is policing the police to make sure these rights are being protected. So...she did something.
She was a huge advocate for public libraries and when garbage collection was not happening in the less fortunate part of town, well, she fixed that. She was politically liberal and was a force in the League of Women Voter's. Yet...she was also a member of the garden club, the homemaker's club, foreign foods group, and she was my brownie troop leader as long as she could physically manage it. And did I mention that she was self-employed & worked full time, along side my dad, managing Jett & Hall Shoes in downtown Richmond?
Soon after my mother passed away, the President of the Richmond League of Women Voters wrote an editorial to the Richmond Register entitled "Remembering Genie Jett", recognizing the great sense of loss in the community that was felt after the death of my mother. It is an amazing tribute to her. I hope you will read it. My favorite excerpt is "It is remarkable what "ordinary people" can do when they work with heart and commitment. Then again, with such commitment, "ordinary people" are no longer ordinary, they become special. Genie has left us with a challenge. With her commitments as a mother, a wife and her business, she still had time to get involved. That's special."
Mom, I am answering your challenge as best I can. When I am not, I trust you will continue with the 5:00am wake up calls. So as I quickly approach 40, I have to hope that my ordinary advocacy attempts honor someone so desperately missed and so special.
I miss you Mom.
Now, I need to go wrangle those coats.
I miss you Mom.
Now, I need to go wrangle those coats.