Sandra handed everyone a copy of Madame Senator’s weekly schedule, two green pages stapled. I had noticed the schedule on different colors among Octavia’s papers. I guess they’re color-coded for each day of the week. We started the staff meeting promptly at nine-thirty a.m., with staffers in the two satellite offices conferenced in on a speakerphone.
The seven of us staffers in the Hill Office sat in the plush burgundy, blue, and gold striped high-backed, armchairs around Madame Senator’s coffee table, which was decorated with a stack of books, and a glass trophy from the American Cancer Association. She had dozens of trophies from various organizations around her office, and bookcases filled with books against one wall. Her large oak desk was positioned in front of a bay window, through which you could see a highway in the distance, beyond the immediate trees and lush landscaping on the campus of the U.S. Capitol.
I was taking it all in when Sylvia’s outburst startled me.
“Boo, we’re going to miss you sooooo much!” Sylvia said out the blue, getting up and walking over to Octavia. “Give me a hug! Girl, you better not hesitate to call if you need anything. I don’t care. Anything! Boo, give me another hug. We’re gonna miss youuuuuuu.”
“Yes, we will all miss her, and we all wish you well,” Michelle said, re-directing the meeting. “Sylvia, since you got the floor, why don’t you go on and update us on Madame Senator’s bill for after-school snacks for at-risk youth.”
“Well hell! Who isn’t at risk these days!” came a flamboyant male voice through the speakerphone. “Hell, I’m at risk if you want to know the truth about it. We’re all at risk of something. Please don’t use that term to degrade our poor children. I swear. If we can’t get away from that term, what can we expect of others? At-risk, I just hate it. It’s so…”
“Thank you from the Peanut Gallery,” Michelle said. “Seriously. Sylvia, what’s the latest on that bill? Does she have all the co-sponsors she needs to move it? Ya’ll know there are a lot of kids out there who don’t have a mommy home baking cookies after school, and a lot of them only eat when they’re in school. We got more daddies in jail and mommies struggling. Call it what you want, but let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Our babies gotta eat.”
“The prize? We’re still trying to feed the problem with free soup. Oh dear. Now, there’s progress,” came another male voice through the speakerphone.
I remembered the fun I had at the community center where my mother and other Black Panthers fed the community breakfast each morning and realized my parents would be proud I could now help provide such basics on a larger scale. I drew a happy face on my note pad, then turned it into a sun.
“Ya’ll know what? We’re going to handle our business in this piece and get on with the day,” Michelle said. “I’m trying to wrap this up and get ya’ll out of here before Madame Senator comes in. She is not in a good mood today. Be warned. Sylvia, give us your report and let’s get on with it.”
Sylvia opened a folder and began explaining which community leaders she had met with and which Senators were on board. She shared statistics on hunger in various cities and said she would help draft the bill since she had all the details. Nia, the receptionist/office assistant, as perky and innocent as Patty Duke, sat on the corner of the couch, next to another phone, to answer calls that came in while we were meeting.
- Are you/have you been involved in community service of any kind at any time? Describe the experience. (If not, why not?)
- What compelled you to service?
- How did you feel after giving?
- Tell why you would or would not do it again.