Day 15 – Want to make a difference? Build courage

Posted on November 4, 2009

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A friend of mine from law school ran for local delegate in my district.  He ran as an independent in a district with a strong incumbent, a district whose proud conservative citizens hardly need to know the name(s) of candidates for public office, so long as they know the party.  A district where running as anything but a Republican candidate might get you the quick door slam when you’re out canvassing.  My law school roommate did the same thing years ago, but in reverse.  She ran as a Republican in a heavily Democratic district.

Both of these friends spent the time talking to people, networking, developing platforms, sending out flyers and campaign messages, knowing that they were in tough battles.  Neither of them received much or any support from an established party because their chances seemed so poor.  I cannot begin to fathom the courage required to enter politics in this day and age, to advocate for positions you believe in, among people who may be hostile or suspicious, to keep walking through neighborhoods ringing doorbells one by one even as you get turned away again and again.  Not surprisingly, given the odds, neither of my friends won their races.

But what I learned from following my local friend (thanks in part to the magic of Facebook) is that, while he did not win his race, he really touched a lot of people.  He actually moved some loyal Repubs to consider a different option.  He made some non-Repubs, who had lost hope of the district’s EVER changing, hope that change could happen.  He helped everyone he met (and it seemed like he met or tried to meet almost everyone in the district) become aware of all kinds of possibilities and educated them about issues that they should care about.  And he made the incumbent do some work (not a lot of work mind you, this is central Virginia we’re talking about).

I don’t know if either of my friends will run for office again. But I think they must have learned and grown so much just from having the courage to follow their hearts.  I think the voters of their districts did.

Lessons for today:

  1. Having the courage to follow your heart helps you change – and helps others change – even if you do not succeed at what you originally set out to do.
  2. You can develop the courage to do anything if it is important to you.
  3. I believe that courage can be developed and strengthened, like a muscle subjected to exercise or a habit.  Try doing something requiring just a little bit of courage – every day.  It gets easier over time!  I bet the first door my friends knocked on was the hardest and the last one was the easiest.

What about you?  Is there some tiny little thing that scares you, just a little?  Try it, especially if it relates to your calling.   Maybe it’s just declaring yourself – “I’m a Democrat!” when you’d rather be publicly invisible and noncommittal.  One little thing, every day.  I’d love to hear how it works out.

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NaNoWriMo status: running behind at 2323 words.  But I’m starting to think of myself as a writer . . .

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