Today is Election Day and of all the candidates and initiatives on the Washington State Ballot one issue stands out for me this year. If passed, Initiative Measure 594 “would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers…”
Washington is the only state this election cycle with a state-wide initiative on what critics call “gun control” and proponents, “gun violence prevention”. It’s been seventeen years since Washington tried to pass anything to do with guns. That attempt failed.
Initiative 594 stands out for me because of the rash of school shootings this year – about one every three weeks. The latest, two weeks ago, in the community of Marysville, north of Seattle.
And it stands out, because of Jeff. I’ve never seen Jeff as particularly active on political issues. In fact, when I asked him about political involvement he told me about doorbelling for George McGovern.
Jeff’s a CPA, and was our church treasurer for more than a decade. I’m used to hearing from him about our financial bottom line and questions on who to follow up with on pledge calls. Now my in-box gets filled with emails he sends about rallies and marches and reminders to announce and sign this and that related to guns and Initiative 594.
It’s true that the issue of gun violence hasn’t caught fire in our congregation like other commitments our congregation has and is passionate about. Jeff is kind of a one man band on the issue of guns around here.
I imagine many of us are supportive of the initiative, but to take on gun violence seems hopeless and impossible to change. Better to concentrate on what might actually be possible. I mean, who really thinks we can have a serious national conversation on gun violence when we don’t seem to be able to talk about much of anything?
But Jeff has been stepping into the impossible for many years. At 17, he hiked the Appalachian Trail alone, and held the record for years as the youngest solo end-to-end hiker.
He went on to become the twelfth person to climb the hundred highest peaks in Washington State, and has gone with his wife, Virginia, trekking three times in Nepal.
Several years ago we went skiing together. I told him I was a true intermediate skier. But I also knew that if I was going skiing with Jeff, I wouldn’t be skiing my favorite blue dot trails on the mountain, but skiing the black diamond and double black diamond trails. I skied down cliffs that day I could never have imagined skiing and wouldn’t have, had it not been for Jeff.
“Why do you push the edges, Jeff? What draws you to what others would seem as impossible?” I asked him the other day.
“I love the physical exertion. Going where I haven’t gone before.” Traits that serve a political activist well.
And when it comes to his advocacy for gun violence prevention, two specific reasons. “I do it for Kellen. And now Kellen and Bailey, my two grandchildren, three and one.”
“I don’t want this to be a story about me”, Jeff says. “It’s not about me. It is about the fact that we can have a different future.”
“If it’s about anyone it’s about people like Tom Wales, Cheryl Stumbo, Gabby Giffords – people who have personally suffered from gun violence.”
And grandkids like Kellen and Bailey who inspire him to become a political activist and do something he hasn’t done before.
No, this story is not about you, Jeff. The piles of information you send and leave on my desk about gun violence is sobering and helpful information. But finally, I have to say, it’s your commitment to step into and work for what others would think impossible, that inspires me. Gives me hope that change might actually be possible and inspires me to work for it.
“You know, going uphill is easier for me. Going down hurts my knees”, he confesses.
Thanks Jeff for being an up-hill hiker. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take, or if we’ll ever get there. But it sure feels good to know there’s someone blazing the trail for the possibility of change.
5 thoughts on “Election Day”
Yes our children and grand children are powerful motivators. It is so sad that our leaders are no longer able to debate and solve problems. No one in their right mind should want to stop laws that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Sad that we can’t have a common sense debate and make informed choices. My brother and his family lived for 40 years in a small farming town that is In Central California. The town is over run with crime and drugs and there is no police force. There are numbers of these poor towns all over the area with the same problems. The police can’t protect you because there are no police. and talking with criminals and people that live in these towns they ALL say the only thing that keeps criminals from entering into people’s homes is the idea there might be a gun in the house. This is so sad but what do you tell these people who are extremely poor and living in these farm areas sense the dust bowl days. Corky
Thanks for noting with admiration and inspiration someone with the courage and energetic follow through to effectively speak out for this important cause.
Just think of the good UCUCC could do if more of its leaders had Jeff’s courage in speaking out about the issues that they know are critical for the well-being of all! Fortunately Jesus was a radical about speaking out about what he knew was best for the common good. What a great model for courage in the face of controversy. How do you think Jesus would speak out if he were a.physical part of UCUCC? Do you think his spiritual presence is just as effective in nurturing our commitments and courage in caring for others and being good stewards? As I see it, either physical or spiritual modeling of courage can be inspiring, butI am grateful for the hope we feel in being part of courageous commitment and leadership within the UCUCC community.
Thanks Jane. Inspiration is what church gives me – the inspiration in having to go places I wouldn’t otherwise go, connect to those I wouldn’t otherwise connect to, do things I wouldn’t otherwise do, love where I wouldn’t otherwise bring my love – It changes me. Grateful for you and a congregation that do that for all of us through word, action, and just being who you are.
Peter, this was a HUGE win. I have never been a political activist, but as part of an amazing group, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, I found myself not only very involved, but passionate about the need to make our communities safer for our grandchildren. Thank you for calling attention to this critical issue. It doesn’t end here.
This is so great to hear Marci – your involvement as well and yes, a step into what has seemed “impossible” – into the possibility of making a change for a less violent world.