#CausesandCommunityService

 

 

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.

  1. Are you/have you been involved in community service of any kind at any time? Describe the experience. (If not, why not?)
  2. What compelled you to service?
  3. How did you feel after giving?
  4. Tell why you would or would not do it again.
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#DontLoseYourself

 

A few staffers walked in with piping hot cups of coffee this morning. I went to the water cooler and filled the bottle I’d brought in. There was a coffee pot caked with dust, a pile of dishes in the sink, a small refrigerator, and a bag of half eaten chips folded and tucked away in the office kitchen. By nine-fifteen the office was bright and noisy with phones ringing, keyboards clicking, TV’s blaring and the front door opening and slamming shut.

“You can bring your lunch, but you won’t want to use the microwave,” Nia said. “It’s nasty.”

“Come on pee-pole. You all know what time it is,” I heard yet another voice yell.

“Grab your note pad,” Octavia said.

I followed her into Madame Senator’s office for the staff meeting, where I was introduced to everyone. The chief of staff, Michelle, strutted in wearing a sundress and flip-flops! Her hair is died deep burgundy and twisted in neat braids wrapped in a bun at the back. Sandra, the scheduler/executive assistant, had on tan slacks and a cool tangerine summer top, and Sylvia, in charge of responding to letters Madame Senator gets from residents, was flaunting crazy nails, and eyelash extensions. Unabashedly ethnic! Ghetto-fabulous! I loved it! It was like the Hood on the Hill in our office. Only two out of the seventeen of us were White, and everybody was on top of their game.

  1. How do you express/maintain your uniqueness?
  2. Are you more of a comformist ( inclined to fit in and go along with the program) or a creationist (inclined to look for a new way of doing things?) Explain.
  3. When/how did you realize you are more of a comformist or creationist?
  4.  

#PrioritizingBusyness

 

We heard keys in the door, then the voice of a cheerful young woman.

“Good moooooorning!” she yelled.

“Hey!” Octavia hollered back.

“Helloooooo!” I yelled.

“Who’s that?”

“R.C. Paige. New girl,” I said.

She turned on the overhead TV in the office lobby, then come back to our area and turned on another overhead TV. News blasted from the lobby TV and muzak played from the TV on our side, which showed a list of the day’s hearings scheduled.

“You can always tune that out and pull up a TV on your screen,” Octavia said. “In fact, you’ll need to keep that window open to MSNBC so you don’t miss anything.”

“I’m a news junkie anyway,” I assured her.

“Take that up a notch and you’ll be fine,” she said. “Anytime you can get a jump on her, do. She’ll respect you for it.”

“What you mean?” I asked.

“Be proactive. That’s what she wants. I’ll give her credit, they’re never gonna catch her sleeping…”

We heard keys again, then the front door open, then we smelled coffee.

“Who dat?” the young woman hollered.

“King of the castle. Who you think?” came a male’s voice.

“Hey Billy. What up?” the young woman yelled. “Take the lock off,” she added.

“Hi. I’m Nia. Heard a lot about you,” the young woman said, dropping a stack of newspapers on my desk.

“Don’t tell me,” I smiled.

Octavia reached over me and closed the e-mail.

“I need to show you some other things,” she said.

Besides writing press releases to get coverage for upcoming bills and events, and besides calling reporters and pitching stories, I’ll need to plan for big projects, including newsletters, and a year-end report to media. She gave me a ten-page exit memo with a lot of the work outlined. I took a lot of notes, too. She showed me templates for press releases, and templates for statements and resolutions I’ll have to write, but the whole time she was explaining stuff, calls were coming in for interviews.

She showed me the list of media contacts and explained which reporters were friendliest to Madame Senator. She showed me where senatorial bills and correspondence are filed on our shared computer drives, and gave me e-mail addresses for leaders of the Democratic Press Secretaries group so I can keep up with the daily talking points they issue Congress members in the House and Senate. Anytime there’s a major issue in the news, in order for them to deliver a consistent message, the Majority Leader of the Senate’s office will send us all talking points, facts and statistics to use in our press releases.

“They have message meetings on Mondays and strategy sessions on Thursdays,” Octavia explained, “But you’ll hardly have time to attend them.”

When Madame Senator gives an interview, I will have to monitor the interview, whether it’s a live camera interview, or an off-the-record phone conversation with a reporter.

“Make sure she doesn’t get misquoted, whatever you do. Make sure the reporter gets it right the first time,” Octavia said.

 

  1. Is your daily To-Do list crammed with more than ten things to do (cook the family breakfast, pack lunch, drop off the dry cleaning, work 8-10 hours at the office, take daughter to choir rehearsal, pick up son from basketball practice, serve dinner, check homework, one load of laundry, entertain/romance your spouse/lover OR go to school full-time, work two part-time jobs and an internship)?
  2. How do you forgive yourself when you don’t complete every task with 100 percent perfection?
  3. When/how can you be less busy?
  4. What would be the benefits of reducing your business (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually?