In mid-November of 2016, several people in my community asked me if I had ever considered running for Village Trustee. When I had been asked this before, I always laughed it off. I’m not well-known or wealthy. I don’t crave power. I’m not even particularly extroverted. I have always been perfectly content to simply be a good citizen.
But the 2016 Presidential campaign changed me. So this time when I was asked to run for Trustee, something clicked. I realized I couldn’t complain about my political options if I wasn’t willing to be an option. The national race left me confused and discouraged, but maybe in my little hometown I could play a role. After a few days of thinking and praying and soliciting advice, I made my decision. I ran for office. I ran for Village Trustee.
I was not elected. But my disappointment with the election results did not diminish my enjoyment of the process. I loved it! Running for political office is a wonderful way to get to know your community!
After all, politics, at its best, is all about community. The whole purpose of local politics is to put systems in place that help the community thrive.
That’s exactly why I got involved.
I have lived in Lansing, Illinois, all my life. All my life I’ve enjoyed the benefits of small-town living—pleasant neighbors, beautiful parks, friendly businesses, responsive public services. I’ve enjoyed all these benefits without ever really giving them much thought. I’ve been able to take them for granted because for many years we’ve had good political leadership, leadership that cares about community.
But it can be dangerous to take that for granted.
What does politics have to do with LifeLines?
Do politics and community fit in with the purpose of the LifeLines blog? I think so. This site is all about helping people (and businesses, and nonprofits) share their story. And though I wrote my vision and mission more than seven years ago, they seem uniquely appropriate to our current socio-political climate:
LifeLines Publishing Vision
We envision a world where language is used skillfully to—
inspire noble deeds,
organize complex thoughts,
replace cynicism with trust,
preserve historical truth,
and develop richer connections between people.
LifeLines Publishing Mission
We listen to our customers,
ask questions until we understand,
conduct extensive research,
and then craft a message that is
accurate, straightforward, beautiful, and effective.
Community and communication
While running for office, I cast that kind of vision for my hometown. I used my listening skills to learn from my fellow citizens, and I used my communication skills to share the community’s hopes and wishes. I intentionally campaigned in a way that replaced cynicism with trust—so people and government might begin working together. I actively celebrated my town’s diversity and offered to help different cultures to develop richer connections.
For people who say they are not interested in politics, I understand. If “politics” is a euphemism for deceit, or self-promotion, I’m not interested in it either. But when politics is the embodiment of public service, and when the goal is a thriving community, I am willing to get involved.
And judging from the feedback I got during my campaign, this kind of politics is exactly what the community is looking for.
“You are the one candidate I believed could bring us to a new level of civic engagement of all people in our community. Your communication skills and calm and gracious demeanor would have served us well. I do hope that you will stay engaged in community affairs. So many of us would be willing to work with you in any way to help promote diversity. You have done a wonderful job in campaigning for a better Lansing! Thank you so much.”
“You’re a great communicator, and perhaps you’d see yourself as a ‘local reporter’ to your following about what the new mayor and board are up to??? Look up and feel proud of your efforts!”
“Thank you for running a good race and being pro-active in your community. Your communication has been great all along the way. My hopes are that in 4 years you have the desire to give it another shot when your name will be more recognized.”
“You worked hard and had a vision for Lansing. Thanks for running and for caring!”
“Thank you for your calm approach! You ran a great race, and things will come around again.”
“Congratulations on a ‘top positive’ campaign and your counter-cultural movement towards the community as a follower of Christ. It is inspiring! I’m sorry that the result wasn’t what was hoped for. The kids asked throughout the evening how it was going. When I shared the outcome with them this morning they were sincerely sad, but made a very insightful point that they have picked up on:'”When Melanie does something, she gets really committed to it.’”
“Thanks for long-since being attentive to community and putting yourself out there. That is a worthy thing by itself.”
“You have handled yourself with class and grace Melanie.”
“Good morning Melanie! I am so proud to call you my friend. I really am. I looked at the election results from yesterday. I just wanted to reach out to you and commend you for trying. Better and better is coming!”
“Please continue to keep us updated, and mobilize your followers when appropriate. Thanks for your love for Lansing!”
“I am disappointed that not enough people saw what an amazing cadidate you were. However, I hope you try again.”
“I wanted to reach out and thank you for your voice regarding Lansing’s racial diversity, both throughout the election season and now recently…. I appreciate your desire and ability to stand between warring parties and seek peaceful solutions that end not with division but reconciliation, and I am grateful for your perspective on racial diversity and justice as a white person. My wife and I are passionate about these same things and have been prayerfully considering how we and our church (which is quickly diversifying, something we celebrate) might contribute to efforts of peacemaking and unification across racial lines. As you vocalized during your campaign, our desire is not to return to ‘the Lansing that was’ but to embrace Lansing as it is and see it flourish.”