A couple of days after the travesty that was our most recent election on Nov. 4th, I visited the web site of Ohio’s surviving Democrat US Senator, Sherrod Brown. I wanted to let Senator Brown know that we Ohioans are most fortunate to be represented by so progressive an elected official as he is. Although I do not remember what all I wrote in the ’email’ launched from the web site, I did add that his progressive leadership is needed now more than ever. It was important enough to me for him to get and read the message that in the ‘topic field’ on the contact form, I checked the category ‘I need your help.’ I thought that his staff was most likely to check the category of personal pleas and call them to the Senator’s attention. In the first few words of my message, I said that I was not really asking for help but was writing to thank him.
Yesterday, Saturday, Nov. 8th, I was sitting at my computer when the phone rang. The voice said, “this is Sherrod Brown …” Thinking that I was receiving yet another robo-call, I almost hung up but first said loudly, “What!” “No really this is Sherrod Brown,” a gravely voice repeated, “I just wanted to call to tell you how very much your note meant to me. This has been a really rough week and your words were a bright spot that lifted my spirits.”
For the next five or six minutes, we chatted like two guys who had just sat down at the same table in a coffee shop. He asked about my career and told me about his early days in politics. He was curious about the source of my progressive values and I think a bit surprised to hear me say that my values were conveyed along with my degree from The Methodist Theological School in Ohio and that the issues that I am passionate about began there with the Civil Rights Movement and have continued for half a century, with only the contexts changing as I’ve longed for justice and mercy. He asked if my wife was close at hand and Jane picked up another phone and joined in the conversation. On learning of her career as a Registered Nurse, ending as a hospice nurse, he congratulated her and noted how sorry he was that health care assistants and aides are so poorly compensated.
As the conversation ended, I told the Senator that his call had certainly ‘made our day.’ He replied that such was only fair as my note had done the same for him.
I do not know where the Senator was calling from. The screen on the phone had read, “Undisclosed Name. Undisclosed Number.” Was he at home, after all it was Saturday? Did Connie pass him a note while he was talking, asking him when he was going to get off the phone and get the eaves cleaned out? Was he traveling and on his mobile phone? At his office, perhaps, and took a break?
And why did he call? He could as easily have had a staff person pen a note to me and sign his name. It certainly was not a campaign call. It was much more like hearing from a neighbor who just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for my leaving that handful of tomatoes on the back porch. There is no doubt in my mind that he had a million other things to do. But he took the time to call us and chat.
Maybe Senator Brown sensed that the guy who wrote the message under the “I need help” topic really did need help even though he feigned indifference to assistance. Maybe he could tell that the sensitivity that had fingered that keyboard was severely caked and calloused by layers of cynicism. Our conversation lasted less than ten minutes but it was a topical emollient for my soul. A brief note of appreciation or a phone call to say ‘thanks’ – neither takes much time or effort but such words have the power to heal. They are the Corn Huskers Lotion for a life dried and cracked by winds of disappointment and discouragement.
Thanks, Senator Brown; we need a lot more like you! Do you mind if I call you Sherrod?