Sometimes people ask me why I spend my time trying to change the world. There are so many people with so many problems. What difference can one person make?
Sometimes it is hard to have a snappy reply. In canvassing in my mostly rural, mostly poor district, I encounter all sorts of suffering. While I have great big ideas on how to fix the future, the reality of so many people’s lives cries for help right now. So many people have already given up on ever finding leaders who are even interested in their personal struggles. These days so many people feel that the guys running for office have no understanding of the people’s lives. And, I must admit, working in this field, I frequently see that’s true.
Which is why I want to tell you this story about James Woods, the Democratic congressional candidate in AZ-05. James is challenging AZ GOP heavyweight Matt Salmon.
I could tell you all sorts of awful things about Salmon and why he needs to be defeated, but this is a story about James Woods, me, and a blind woman in Kingman.
When I first met James Woods and his campaign team, they asked me if I wanted to have some of my business cards printed in Braille. Thinking it a cool novelty, I said yes and gave them about a dozen. They came back w imprinted w Braille dimples, saying “Vote Weisser” or something like that. It wasn’t an actual translation of all the material on the card, we but everyone agreed that if I should ever run into a blind person they would probably be amazed anyone even took the time to think of them. Months went by and my special cards got mixed in w others and all the sighted people who received one thought they were neat, but like so many other cards, after the moment of novelty wore off, they were tucked away, probably forgotten. Soon the cards were almost gone. I knew that there was someone who would treasure the card, so I kept the last one in a special place in my wallet to make sure I didn’t accidentally give it away.
That’s how I met Bobby. I am going to call her Bobby, anyway.
It was a Sunday and the neighborhood was alive w activity as we canvassed that day. Kids were playing, people were doing their Sunday fix-er-upper chores. At first we thought the house was abandoned, weeds had taken over the yard, trash was stuck there. I knocked anyway, and was just walking away when I heard the door open. I knew right away she was blind. As Bobby stood in the dark door of her house, she tried to explain how hard her life had become. I listened attentively, and took some notes.
. Bobby was a mother, whose kids were teens when she went blind. She had had a functional life--work, friends, boyfriends, fun, the basics we all want out of life. Then it was gone. Here blindness took over her life in the course of a year, she had lost her job, her home and her roommates. When her kids moved on into their own lives, things got even harder. She moved to Kingman to stretch her disability budget and had lived in the shadows of her dark house for years worrying what the rest of the world thought of the shut-in lady in the rundown house. Bobby held back tears when I came to her door, because she knew the yard needed work and she was ashamed. She had tried hiring neighbors before, only to be ripped off to the point she had given up. She had lived this way now for years.
The truth is, we all knew I only had limited abilities to help her. I asked if there was a local office of Center-for-Independent-Living, a national network of disabilities support organizations. Yes, she exclaimed, amazed that a political figure would even know of such things. We talked another few minutes when I remembered the Braille card in my wallet.
“I have something for you,” I said and placed the card in her hand. At first, she started to say she couldn’t read it, but she stopped suddenly when her fingers found the Braille. “Oh my god, what? V-O-T-E W-E-I-S-S-E-R. Oh my god, this is so great. Where did you get it?”
I told her about James Woods and his campaign. “I love that man,” she laughed. We talked another 20 minutes. She brightened a bit and stepped out into the doorway. We discussed ways to get her help for her yard. We talked about politics and in particular James Woods. When I left I knew that much of this woman’s life would remain a struggle; but witnessing that day’s transformation reminded me of why I do this and why I appreciate James Woods so much.
This was a story of the difference James made in on person’s life with one type of problem, but the James Woods campaign cares about the struggles of all people, especially those in the shadows hoping someone will someday care enough to look in. It’s the kind of vision we need more of these days.
--Mikel Weisser is the Democratic candidate for US House in AZ’s 4th Congressional District.