Shelby Slawson: Keep a little flex in the knees and we’ll make it
Note: Shelby Slawson and I have been talking about doing a story focused on her campaign experience. The recent turn of events led me to send her a Q&A rather than a face-to-face interview. In absolute Shelby-style, she emailed me back this interesting response. It wasn’t what I expected, but it works beautifully in these challenging times.
Dear Editress in Chief,
I'm writing to beg a little forgiveness because this isn't the anticipated interview response. It's more a request for a raincheck, of sorts.
This week - an extension of the ones preceding it (how many have there been now?) - increasingly has been spent in calls and messages and conversations with so many folks, all these wonderful people across Central Texas who find themselves bracing against wave after wave of challenges. They're leaning in against those waves, grabbing hold of the hand of someone struggling (figuratively, obviously), and leaning in, bravely.
You know how sometimes you witness instances of humility and compassion that grab hold of your heart, your soul even? You've been covering our communities and our people so long, I know you know what I mean, but am struggling to articulate. That is the recurring experience of this week.
One month ago, after many months spent meeting thousands of folks across all 8 counties, the HD59 electorate returned an amazing pronouncement for change in our State Rep seat. We were absolutely thrilled to win all 8 counties--not just sneaking by a long-term incumbent but taking a commanding 4000+ vote lead! While we finished just shy of the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff, the returns were actually statistically historic in two decades worth of state races. I'll spare you the nerding out details and just say the cliff notes version is that Central Texas literally shocked the establishment.
But then, just a few short days into the runoff cycle, the world began changing. Slowly, then less slowly, then more rapidly.
Those same people we've come to know in the last year, who we've come to call friends, who've graciously shared so much of their time and thoughts and treasure with us--they're under attack.
Jobs have slipped away overnight; businesses have closed doors involuntarily; bills continue to accrue.
This whole notion of loving others best by distancing ourselves from them? For all the 'slow the spread' sense it makes (and it does), it is not without heartache (especially for our extroverts).
Our schools meanwhile? Of all we're facing, what a bright shining star of adaption, improvisation, and overcomery.
Who among us is surprised though? In fact, I've considered making a motion that we put our teachers in charge of community covid response. Pretty sure I'd get a quick 'second' to that motion. The only thing holding me back is that, based upon two weeks' worth of first-hand-insider-info, a wide swath of parentals still need a lot of tutoring on these devices and distance learning. (The kids, mind you? They're fine. A little show-offy even, what with their innate zoom-abilities.)
Anyway. I might be digressing, at least if we were still operating in the bounds of conventional timelines and storylines. But we're not, are we?! It could be Tuesday; it could be Friday. Only by the magical, mystical date and time-stamp on this email will we know for sure!
My point (and I do have one, which I trust you know from a decade of proofing my columns, which reminds me: shout out to your patience), is that every time I've opened your email inquiring what it's like to juggle service versus work; what it's like to continue reaching voters during a pandemic; what I might tell others who want to serve but are hesitant . . . I've continually found myself pulled away by a call or a message of a need of someone in this district.
After four days of that pattern, I was feeling pretty guilty for not responding to the gracious interview request.
Then it occurred to me: I am responding. We all are.
I'm still with our people each day, in one form or another, all these amazing people across our 8 counties--my people, more than ever--out there in the waves, grabbing hands (again, figuratively, sigh), holding on, leaning in.
This week, families in our communities began worrying about food. Hard-working folks who have been unwillingly forced out of jobs and are falling in a gap induced by an overwhelmed unemployment-claims system, right at the first of the month. After years of you graciously covering our Backpack Buddies program to feed children, I doubt it's any surprise to you that I cannot abide the notion of hunger in our midst. Oh friend, what a world in which we've awoken!
The good news--as it always is here in what I earnestly believe is the best part of the greatest state--is that these most basic needs, once known, are being met. Period.
Our small businesses are worrying about paychecks and rent and insurance and bills and general continuity. Meanwhile our financial institutions and economic development authority and chamber and city leaders and other partners are pouring hours and hours into navigating all available resources and ideas. There is no quit; there is continual try, pivot, try, pivot, try. Period.
That's just how it is here.
(Thank you, Lord, that's how it is here.)
And so we arrive--and I think the email timestamp will back me up on this--at the end of a long and challenging week. Here we are, hoping for a little reprieve before the next long and challenging week. We're gonna need to keep a little bend, a little flex in the knees, I think. But we'll make it.
Incidentally, the runoff election has been, wisely, pushed to July 14. Early voting will be July 6-10. This is the part where I plead for a raincheck that we might revisit that whole topic in a few weeks, after we've resolved our more immediate concerns? There is so much more for us to talk about there, and I am eager to continue that conversation as we prepare for what will become a legislative session addressing the significant economic fallout for our people, our businesses, our state, and our country.
But first, what I extend to you, and to all the rest across our district is, very simply, my hand.
For the waves.
For the lean in.
And for whatever you can do with any of this until we're released from social distancing and I can come hug your neck extrovert-style and answer your really good questions like a proper (and exceedingly grateful) interviewee.
Stay well, wash your hands, and God Bless Texas,