When I was a young boy, I spent many the afternoons at a nursing home where my mother, a nurse, cared for a woman named Minnie Watts.
Then in her 90s, Minnie spent hours playing dominoes with me and to this day, I remember how she would want to keep playing if I won, but was ready to move on to other pursuits if she’d beaten me first. She read aloud, often verses from the Bible, and I would push her wheelchair and bring her food. In a way, my brother and I grew up at Morningside Manor, the nursing home where Minnie lived.
Watching my mother, Susie Villarreal, care for Minnie and serve as her companion in her final years taught me and my brother the value of caring for all members of our society, the young and the old. She brought to life Jesus' final sermon in Matthew that directs us to care for those in need. I believe it was among the experiences that guided my brother to follow my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. I trace my commitment to caring and taking responsibility for others to these childhood experiences and I try to honor them through my public service.
As a society, we need to have the strength to take care of each other, particularly our neighbors in need. Caring for the needy has been a tenant in our country’s political heritage. John F. Kennedy captured our social and moral obligation when he said, "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
What we are supposed to be doing on this Earth is caring and taking responsibility for each other. I see a lot of connections between this ethic and the best fulfillment of my responsibility as a public servant.
If someone in my district is having a problem, I want to know about it. If they can’t afford a lawyer, there are resources my office can offer. If they’re having a problem with a state agency, I can be their voice. Or if the law isn’t treating them fairly, perhaps I can help change it.
Recently, a mother whose son uses a respirator in their home came to my office with an urgent need. Their power had been cut off, thereby endangering her son. My office was able to help by contacting City Public Service and explaining the situation. CPS then worked with this family to establish a payment program. Today their power is back on.
To me, this is the essence of public service. It starts with caring and goes on from there to action. It reminds me of my mother’s service, not only to Minnie, but to the seniors she cares for today out of her home, a place where my children are learning the lessons I learned all those years ago.