I can’t tell you how many times I crossed South Market Street as a kid; it’s a number that is probably north of a thousand. I remember as a kid, South Market Street was a more narrow road and it was easier to cross. As a young kid, Dad would walk me over to Ording's on nearly a daily basis. As I grew older, I could venture across the street on my own. On those times that it wasn’t safe to cross, there was an abandoned railroad overpass that I would end up taking to cross the street. Not the safest option, but certainly the more adventurous.
The other side of Market Street always beckoned me. As a youngster, every piece of loose change was spent at Ording’s buying packs of baseball cards or football cards. Of course, I would go over with friends and we would immediately open up our loot and start trading cards.
As a teenager, it was the True Value Hardware store that became the first place I had an hourly job. For eight years, all through high school and college, I worked there doing a little bit of everything. Stocking shelves, running the cash register and helping customers. One of my favorite tasks was tinting paint. Technology had not quite developed the fancy color analyzers that the hardware and home improvement stores have now. Rather, every color was listed in a phone-book sized guide which detailed which tint and how much went into each gallon. It was truly more art than science.
The hardware store was the place where the mind and the body were always engaged in working with customers. People would come in with more questions than answers and we were there to help them fix their problem. I remember when I was particularly stumped, we’d call in one of the more seasoned employees who worked there to help solve the problem. It was always fascinating to be a part of these huddles helping people to put in a new sink drain or wire a new receptacle.
And more than just learning about skills like threading pipe, filling propane tanks and cutting glass, there were more important skills taught at that store that have helped me time and time again.
Perhaps the most important of these skills is the ability to listen and communicate with people. When customers would walk into our front door, especially new ones, they were often there with a problem they couldn’t solve. They needed something to get their lives back to normal. We were relied upon to help guide, find and create solutions. And we couldn’t solve these issues until we fully listened and understood the concerns of our customers.
Listening is a skill that is critical for public service. Our residents are invested in our community and they have comments and questions. If we just take the time to listen well and ask good questions, we can help our residents become even more invested and care more about our wonderful community. Listening isn’t getting ready to form a response while someone else is speaking. Listening isn’t dismissing someone’s thoughts or feelings as insignificant. Listening isn’t simply referring someone to another person. Listening is actively hearing what someone else is saying and giving a sense of empathy and a desire to get to the bottom of what is bothering our neighbors.
It’s that skill of listening that I am bringing to this campaign. And our residents know that. There has been one candidate for this office that has repeatedly asked for the thoughts, opinions and ideas of our citizens for well over a year.