There is a bulletin board at our house that is a jumbled display of old and new pictures. My mom and dad at some long-ago church dinner, Drew and his brothers when Brian was just a baby, Mary’s christening picture just before Drew went into the Navy, a road in the hills of Adair County, and lots of our grandkids, of course. You know — you probably have pictures stuck up somewhere too.
Well, I also have a mental bulletin board, with snapshots and quotes from Oklahomans I’ve met on the campaign trail. Some are from previous races and some are from just a few days ago.
A strong middle-aged guy who made a living in construction told me his business partner had recently had a heart attack. $100,000 hospital bill. No health insurance. I’ll never forget the fear in his eyes and voice as he said, “What would happen to me and my family if I have a heart attack?”
A waitress bringing our breakfast at a home-town diner. “Aren’t you Drew Edmondson? You sent me to prison when you were DA.” I’m thinking, uh-oh. She went on, “I want to say thank you. I needed to go. I got clean and sober and passed my GED. I have my kids back now, and I’m working here, and I’m going to make it!” All three of us were in tears over the bacon and eggs.
And just the other day in southeastern Oklahoma I met an earnest young preacher who was worried about the cutbacks in mental health services. “I can do spiritual counseling, but not every person with mental illness needs that. Churches can’t do it all. We have to have mental health clinics too.” His eyes and his words were wise beyond his years.
Last week, as we finished helping bag up Thanksgiving dinner groceries at the Jesus House, a man came up to the warehouse door to ask when the turkeys would be given away. “Tomorrow morning, get here early!” was the reply from one of the workers. The man said, “I was trying to come this morning. I thought I had a ride but it didn’t work out. I’ll try to be here early tomorrow…” His desperate face is the newest picture on my mind’s bulletin board.
These people, their faces and voices, are what keep me going. I’m hoping Drew will win this race so he can put the people of Oklahoma first again. So many people feel left behind. Their voices are crying out and I can see their faces – on my mind’s bulletin board.