November 19, 2015

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

When I pull up to the front door of the State Capitol and walk through the door to my office, I remind myself of just how lucky I am to serve in public office. But casting votes and fighting the good fight for the folks back home is just a fraction of what this job is about to me. In my mind, my job is about giving back even more than it is about voting on bills.

I believe action speaks louder than words. Yes, you will hear me debate at the top of my voice in favor of those less fortunate than I, particularly when it comes to issues like FoodShare subsidies, school lunch subsidies and homeless shelter or transitional housing grants. But I put my money, and my actions, where my mouth is.

Our nation has had a long and eventful history. America’s history can be pretty bleak at times. America has grown a lot in the fight for fairness and equality. While some of our history is regrettable, we area also a nation with deeply rooted traditions that we can all call our own. I am overjoyed to spend this Thanksgiving in a warm home with a nice meal. I’m fortunate to be able to spend time with my son, Isiah and my family. They are my world.

But, while I will enjoy this evening with the company of my family, I will never forget that many of our neighbors live every day in need.  In Milwaukee County, 18.8 percent of residents live in poverty. In Central Milwaukee City, the poverty rate becomes a staggering 41.6 percent.  The terrible effects of poverty cannot be understated. Here’s the statistic that really punches me in the gut; 11 percent of Wisconsin children live in poverty. It crushes me to think of those babies going hungry at suppertime or shivering in their sleep on cold Wisconsin winter nights.

Our Pledge of Allegiance ends “with liberty and justice for all.” We are one nation and one community, and to me, that means we look out for each other in the ways that we can. Whether it means signing up for a shift at the food kitchen or donating a home cooked meal to those in need, we can all find ways to help.

I am fortunate. I have parents that love me and a son that is my world. I grew up in Milwaukee, attending Milwaukee public schools, graduated from UW-Milwaukee and got a law degree. I consider myself blessed that the people of Milwaukee have elected me several times to represent them in the State Legislature. I consider myself truly of the people, for the people and by the people. Through the grace of God, I feel fortunate. And in His grace, I believe it is my duty to give back to those less fortunate. 

Giving back is not always easy but it is always right. As a landlord, I own many properties throughout our community. But one stands out above the rest. It’s my mom’s house. If there is anyone in this world who knows the definition of giving thanks and giving back, it’s my mother. I may own the house, but my mom makes it a home. Stop by that home at any time and it will be full of people in need of a warm meal or a place to sleep.

We give back all year long, as I am sure you do too. But it’s especially important to remind ourselves of the families that are struggling to make ends meet as the holidays approach. This Thanksgiving, it is important to make sure families in need have a full hot meal for Thanksgiving and every other meal. After all, wasn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?

There are many opportunities to help these families experience Thanksgiving and I encourage you to give back with me during this holiday season. Just the other day,  I partnered with PKSD Law Firm, Feeding America of Eastern Wisconsin, A-LEGO, Pastors United, JB Foundation, and Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. in providing over 500 full Thanksgiving meals for those in need.

But that’s just one day. We are all part of this community and we all can help in our own way. I thank you for everything you do for our community and urge you, if you have the means, to do just a little bit more. Together, we can reverse those statistics I mentioned. Let’s make Wisconsin a state where no child lives in poverty.