Local relationships still trump all else after dozen years in legislature

Fair warning!

In the first column I wrote for this newspaper, I said if you don’t find my little musings interesting, then go fishing and use this paper to clean your fish. This just might be the article that causes you to try your luck at Green Peter!

The legislative session ended the last day of June.

In the past six weeks I have diligently been working to catch up on all the things, personally and professionally, that go undone during session.

I also find that this time causes me to be a little more retrospective than usual. Working with constituents is the part of my job that I love, and that happens in the district, not in Salem.

I can’t help but think of the woman in her 70’s whom I met in 2008 while knocking on doors. I did not know on that spring day that a journey lasting seven years and resulting in a friendship, would ultimately bring me to the tarmac at PDX when her husband’s remains were finally brought home. He had been shot down Christmas Eve, 1965, during the Vietnam War.

I think of the young father of two, where once again I was knocking on doors. He not only invited me into his house but into his life. He was losing his battle with cancer, had lost his insurance, and couldn’t afford all his meds.

He just needed someone to care and I had the privilege to be that person at that moment.

I can’t even begin to count the friendships that my family and I have only because of connections as your State Rep.

Our son has a surrogate set of grandparents that resulted from a conversation, with a stranger, about sign locations. When our grandson was born, almost six months ago, the outpouring of congratulations, cards, and gifts (all under the $50 legally allowed) was pretty overwhelming.

It amazes me how this job, which I accepted during an appointment process on a Friday and started voting the following Monday, has turned into something so much more than a job.

I love walking into a restaurant and being greeted by people I’ve come to know and care very much about.

It’s no secret: I’m a sucker for babies. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve caught up with the latest happenings in families while picking out bananas at the grocery store. But we all know that’s just not a State Rep thing – that’s a small-town thing.

One of the most impacting events and amazing relationships that have come from my roll as a state representative began with a terrible farm accident, resulting in the death of a very fine 16-year-old young man in 2008.

I’ve had the honor and privilege to walk with this family through struggles and get to know the depth of love they have for each other and their community. I can honestly say, I have not done near as much for them as they have for me, just by having the privilege of watching them do life.

These are the things I remind myself of during the long days of a legislative session.

I have to believe my roots in the district, along with my friends and neighbors “keeping it real” with me, is why, after almost 12 years, I still feel like a fish out of water in Salem and at home at a Friday night football game.