I’ve been doing these things called Riverside Chats on Facebook live. The idea is to connect with people in this time of crisis like FDR did through the Great Depression and World War Two. I usually sit on my deck and invite whoever is watching to be there with me beside the mighty Arkansas River, looking out at the rolling blue hills that belong to all of us.
Before I started doing this I floated the idea with my inner circle–family and friends who are helping me run the race for State Representative. Everyone liked the idea; not everyone agreed on the desired length, frequency, subject matter, etc. After listening to all of their advice and incorporating as much of it as I could, I launched the first one six weeks ago.
My campaign manager–a young man who came up to me at a football game and declared, “I want to live in a world where you are my representative,” to which I replied, “You’re hired but I can’t pay you”–worried about doing this unscripted. He has learned in political science classes that campaign strategies favor the scripted. Because that’s what is safe. And I love it that he tries to keep me safe; Lord knows someone needs to. His protectiveness has earned him the nickname “Blankie.” I take him around places with me as much as possible, like Linus carries his security blanket. Everyone who dares to enter the arena needs a Blankie.
But what Blankie knows, what he signed up for, and I think even a reason he wants me for his representative, is that I do not live my life scripted. I can’t. At least not on the front end. As a writer I tend to script things as they happen, and after, as a way of processing. But for me living an unscripted life is necessary for integrity–the integration of my inner self with my outer self. I didn’t get into this race to become someone I’m not.
It is tempting at every turn to do just that, however. Everyone has different definitions of who I should be in order to garner votes. Countless people have told me I should be a Republican; that it would be much easier to win. Left-wingers have suggested I’m backward for being against abortion and careless for being pro-gun. Rural conservative Democrats support me trying to bring the party back to common sense. Others think it cannot be done. Just yesterday a friend from high school said that before me she didn’t think Christians could be Democrats, but lo and behold here I am.
It turns out that politics, for me, is just another exercise in being who I am without apology: allowing the rest of the world to think whatever they want while I dig deep into my truest self and bring whatever that is outside for anyone to see. Real democracy means people see clearly what the choices are, and then we vote for what we want. If who I am is what voters want, I’ll be the choice. And if not, I will lose. The risk of losing is why people are afraid to show who they really are. I understand that because I’ve lost plenty and it is very painful. But I have learned it is better to lose than try to be someone you’re not. Sometimes there are things you have to lose in order to live in truth and freedom. And, like Atticus said, sometimes you do [win].
What does any of this have to do with unscripted Riverside Chats? I have found that Facebook live is a good way to avoid any tendency toward perfectionism, any effort at pleasing everyone. I plan and prepare, but I’m really not in control of what happens. So whatever it is has to be good enough. I’ve done videos with six thousand views and those with two hundred. Every time I’m taking a chance. Sometimes the sun is in my eyes, a rogue dog is barking, or a wasp kamikazes my head. Often a child interrupts. Last week I unwisely opened up the floor to an eight-year-old who was precious and adorable and also embarrassed me with some of her antics. We live and learn and I probably won’t do that again; there is such a thing as being too vulnerable. But the purpose of Riverside Chats in the first place is to connect. To comfort and challenge and lead. To let people see who I am, and let them know they are not alone.
Being fully human means you make mistakes and change your mind and learn and grow. You work hard and do your best and hope it’s enough. You fall and get back up and move forward. If you’re a believer you try to understand what Jesus was about when He walked the earth, and act accordingly in how you make decisions and treat people. This is my approach to life; it’s how I bring myself to marriage, parenting, family, friendship, teaching, writing, and everything else. Including politics. It demands authenticity. That’s why I don’t delete old things I’ve written; I chat on Facebook live, publish my phone number and email, try to speak to all kinds of groups, meet face to face with people, listen and engage and try to answer any questions people ask, and admit when I don’t know the answer.
Real public service requires trust which requires honesty. It’s not about upholding an image or fealty to a party. It’s not creating a club whose members agree on everything. It’s not an act that follows a script. It’s about showing up real and offering all that you are to help people. Let me know how I might help you.