Maybe because it was a gray day, or because the news around the world was so bad in so many ways, I was feeling a little down on Sunday. I was running out of signs and literature, and I found a big glossy ad from my opponent for SBOE in our mailbox. I decided instead of moping around, I would help my husband Pierre pull thistles and focus my mind on my role models—all the people who have inspired me and cheered me on, or shown strength in the face of seemingly impossible odds. I looked over at Pierre, working on his thistles, and I remembered that sunny summer day a decade ago, when he was riding his bicycle and a van pulled out of a driveway, smashing into him. At the time, I was teaching in Texas State’s study abroad program in England, where I awoke to a call from our daughter saying, “Don’t freak out, Mom, but Dad’s been in a bicycle accident and he’s going into surgery. He may not walk again.” British Air put me in first class when they learned about my situation, but I couldn’t even enjoy this luxury flight that seemed to last forever.
When I finally made it to Brackenridge hospital, I looked at Pierre’s bruised face as he smiled, mumbling, “I’ll be fine,” and I smiled back and said, yes, he would, but those were not my inner thoughts. Through the next forty-five days, he kept his positive attitude through painful therapy, while other patients around him were refusing to even get out of bed. He ended up winning a patient of the year award before he went back to teach at Texas Lutheran, first riding in a wheelchair, then using a walker, and finally graduating to a cane by the end of the fall semester. After watching him maintain his good humor through months of therapy, I could never again let myself be discouraged by any gray day. I’ve seen this same strength in others as well, and I keep these people in mind to inspire me. I think of our daughter Marisa, her face still puffy from jaw surgery, taking care of Pierre throughout his hospital stay, offering to postpone beginning her masters at University of Chicago, and then leaving—at our insistence—to go study where she knew no one. I think of our younger daughter, Thea, working as a nurse in a trauma unit in Asheville, North Carolina, calmly reassuring desperate people, even when she has to bring people back from the dead, sometimes quite literally.
I also think of all the people who have offered love and support through the years, with van rides for Pierre, pro bono legal help, and now that I’m running for State Board of Education, the dozens of friends and strangers who have helped in the past and continue to donate to my campaign, from five dollars given by people living on pensions to contributions in the thousands from musicians and philanthropists, some I’ve never even met, giving simply because they heard I would fight for education or the environment. Strangers have introduced themselves to me as supporters of education, and I’ve met people like Steven Apodaca, who is helping boost my web presence, reminding me to take pictures. I’ve had people from all over the district extend their hospitality, from Val and Steve in Kerrville to Gilberto “Chili” Ornales in Seguin, inviting me to free dinner at a LULAC banquet and getting his hands dirty putting together signs for me, promising to place them in front of the best supporter homes. Surrounded by an army of heroes like this, who give of themselves and cheerfully lend a hand to good causes every single day, I know the answer when people ask me why I’m running for SBOE again. How can I not? We must all keep on working for our community, our state, our country—one kind act at a time, one small gesture at a time—until we finally win.