Published: October 25th 2010October 25th 2010
Recent COPS/Metro Press Conference
Press Conference where leaders of COPS/Metro called for the community to get out and vote.
My past two weeks could be said as encompassed within a series of morning rituals. Where I begin my day again, sitting and drinking coffee, looking over the local, national and international opinion pages of the New York Times. It helps to begin again. As a YAV, I find that I am beginning again more often than I ever conceived. It is a simple recipe. Yet, most often it is qualified by a willingness to reminisce about the past and a desire to actively create the future.
This sensation, however, quickly forgets an important part of life: the present. The present moment is composed and detailed by the minute moments of life, the small happenings. Ever elusive, it is difficult to speak of the present without hovering in abstract notions such as the “now.” Simply, in a culture that is obsessed with progression and creating a successful tomorrow, the present always seems to be passing me by. It takes a conscientious effort to slow down, and realize that we all may be moving too fast.
Several times since my last post I’ve come to realize the importance of trying to living now, of making the most of our surroundings.
Area leader spoke about the importance of supporting a public education bond.
But most importantly of slowing down, and revealing in the time we do have. Let me say that this revealing in the present is not characterized by a desire to go and do things, but rather to sit back, and orientate myself so that I can receive, be open to all that is with and around me.
I haven’t been able to accurately express the disjointed and unsettling feeling that is the knowledge of my living here for a year: It is difficult for me to convey what my expectations are for the next year. This may be because I haven’t thought in that long of a timeframe for a while. However, and most certainly, the motivations land aspirations for my YAV year are not limited to my living in San Antonio: I am coming to the realization that much of why I am here is to begin living out what I see as the most healthy and equitable lifestyle. I am not here, in San Antonio, to evangelize. I am not occupying my space in San Antonio as a missionary: this is not a year “off” for mission. When the year ends, I hope to only be more
A group of COPS/Metro walkers head out one San Antonio evening.
energized to work and live as I am now.
But this is difficult to conceive. I am not used to living in long term; rather, I have emerged from a state of life characterized by classes, midterms and essays. Short-term schedules have ruled my life in recent times. After school, I moved to New Mexico, where I worked as a counselor for a weekly camp. Here, time was conceived of in groups, and projects. In New Mexico, time was demarcated all the more heavily: beginning rituals, and celebrations helped me adjust and place time in my life. And when the week was coming to an end, I had events to tell show me this: ending powwows and talent shows outlined the end of one group and the looming arrival of another.
As a YAV, time is more fluid and is beginning to coalesce into a single stream.
This stream meanders around and pushes through moments that begin to characterize my time. That my time is fluid and self-perpetuating is most obvious in reoccurring conversations that build upon one another: the longer I am here, the more I realize why I believe in community development.
Last Thursday, I had the chance to block walk a neighborhood of Southeast San Antonio. We began walking in the evening. Cool and calm, it was characterized by community center basketball games, with young families walking their children through the park. It was a quintessential picture of the modern United States. In the dusk, you could see clearly the youth running, shouting, calling to one another. Outside, younger children climbed, and fell over one another on a jungle gym. As the sun set, and the cool evening air fell nicely upon our walking shoulders, and I found time for a conversation in the dusk.
When block walking, I strive to communicate that COPS/Metro is a non-partisan, community-based, multi-issue organization; I am assertive in trying to hear peoples’ stories with our issues: education, immigration reform, health care, and workforce development.
One conversation embodied community organizing well. I met a middle-aged woman; by knocking on her door I had disturbed her nap. She was wearing a simple robe, and as she whipped away the sheets from her eyes, I could see that she was patient and interested in what I had to say: I asked her if any of the issues were important to her. Yes, she said. I used to work for the Texas Health and Human Resources department. I was a caseworker before my husband got sick. After, I requested that I be transferred as a clerk, so I could take time off easier when my husband needed me. She sat down on a porch chair, folding her robe over her to protect her legs from the cold and the mosquitoes. Her tone, quiet from sleep, and somber from her story, matched the evening dusk.
I remember, she continued, when my husband was first enrolled in the Medicare system. I went to the offices and picked up some literature about coverage. I can understand the wording, and literature, but I have to work through it, she said. And I have a Masters in English and have worked for the system for some time. This is troubling to me. If I struggle to understand how my husband can receive adequate and proper care, I worry about those who aren’t as familiar with the language.
She sprayed the air with the oily liquid, and I asked if I could sit down. She offered some of the bug spray. I began to tell her about my thoughts on health care, and other stories I had heard. I asked her how we might change things; how things can be improved and health care can be more accessible to those who need it most. We talked about the Texas fiscal situation: with an $18 Billion deficit, legislators are already talking about cuts to social services like health care, and educational programs.
As she spoke, I looked out into the street. The scene garnered a dark and blue color. The neighbors sitting on their porches in the cool evening air seemed to be listening; things slowed down. Worries about politics, and voter numbers began to fall away. Her story gained more power. It filled the porch, overflowed into the street. It became all that mattered. Our world was swallowed up by her story that night.
The personal it seems, must be political.
I left her porch that night on the tone of communities working together. The only way we can change things is to work through the system, to hold people accountable, to assert our needs and desire through a system of voting. If the system is broken, then it is up to us to fix it. Those who are reaping the benefits of the brokenness are the least likely to listen to our calls for change. But we must work together. I said all of this with a tone of hope, passion, and experience.
I must have forgotten that my experience is one of listening. Her’s, it seems, one of living.
I agree with you, she said. I think you’re right. Pausing, she looked out into the night:
But don’t hold your breath.
I laughed at this tone of realism in opposition to my optimism. I left her porch steps and turned around. I’m sending good thoughts for your husband, I said. Thank you, she replied. She noted her respect and pride in the work I was doing.
It is in the face of such troubled and deep experience that community development plods forward. It is the determination to take such stories as hers, and assert that something is not right. But it is, undeniably, up to us to change it. I’m not holding my breath. I need too much of it to work for the change.
I remember her, in her robe, holding her bug spray. With a face calling her back to dreams: My time here as a YAV is characterized by moments such as this. Where community development is found in relationships, stories, and the reality that community organizing is anything but numbers, and everything about learning and listening to others. This is just a small story from the past two weeks. Much has happened: I have worked much, slept little, and have begun striving to listen—in the most authentic ways I can—to the community I now call home.
Here is a link to view a video of a recent Press Conference the leaders of COPS/Metro recently called. It is all in spanish, but the images should be informative and helpful http://univision41.univision.com/noticias/local/video/2010-10-18/saisd-grita-por-un-bono