When I was a little girl, my mother would take me with her to work on some Saturdays. My mother was a visiting nurse and she would occasionally have patients to see on the weekend. Some of her patients lived in abandoned warehouses, and one even lived on an old school bus. I loved those Saturdays with my mom. We would talk about everything. I was a very curious child – always had questions and I asked many on those Saturday trips. “Why do they live there?” “Where do they sleep?” “Where is their stove?” “How do they cook?” Bless my mother, she answered all of my questions so patiently and honestly. At the time, I never thought anything of it – it was just time spent with Mom.
However, since she’s been gone, I’ve wondered “Why me?” Why did she take me on those trips? I don’t remember asking to go with her. I had older siblings at home who could have watched me if she was concerned. To my knowledge, my other siblings never went on any of these Saturday trips, so why me. Did she see something in me? Did she hope that I would follow in her footsteps? Why would she take a little girl to neighborhoods where people lived in abandoned warehouses and old school buses? If I had one more day with my mother, I would ask her this question – “why me?”
I don’t know if it was her intent, but it worked. My entire career has been spent helping the underserved, working in communities where there is much lack – lack of opportunities, lack of healthy food options, lack of quality education, lack of hope. In those 30 years, I have been mostly on the front line, helping individuals and later, managing programs that helped individuals. And although it has brought me a sense of accomplishment knowing that in some small way, I have helped, I still have a sense that something is missing – that I’m not doing enough to change systems.
But how does that translate into a job – a career? I thought about politics but immediately realized I don’t have the temperament for it. There was a period of time when I was looking for a new job and friends and colleagues would ask me what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how to voice what I wanted or the job title. All I could think about when asked was that I wanted a seat at the table. I wanted to be in a position where my voice and opinion were being heard. I wanted to be a part of the solutions. When community leaders and administrative officials came together to talk about how to make change happen, I wanted a seat at the table in order to provide input. Maybe it was all of those conversations with my mother so long ago, but I believed what I had to say added value. I believed that I would ask the right questions that would bring about the right solutions. It worked with my mother. During our Saturday trips, my mother and I talked about why people lived in abandoned warehouses and old-school buses and our role to make it better. She listened and seemed to think what I had to say was worthy, so why wouldn’t others listen?
One friend told me what I needed to do was become a Chief of Staff. He said I underestimated my value and impact on people and organizations. He said I underestimated the value of my presence in the lives of those with whom I have forged relationships. Really nice, right? So, I decided to become a Chief of Staff. Much easier said than done, and in the meantime, I remained unfulfilled.
Then one day I was talking to my sister and I can’t even begin to repeat everything she said, but it was like a lightning bolt hit me. For so many years I have been waiting on someone to give me a seat at the table when all along I already had it. It’s like in The Wizard of Oz (and my sister even mentioned that to me), we continue to wait for someone to give us the power and we’ve always had it. So, this new blog, Voice at the Table, is me using the power of my voice to talk about anything and everything. My thoughts about life, love, and issues that impact our community locally, nationally, or globally. I hope you share your voice too. I want to hear your thoughts and opinions. It will be just like those conversations I had with my mom so long ago. My hope is that by all of us sitting at the table, we will be able to effect change. Together.