It seemed random when a friend and former colleague invited me for coffee after being out of touch for a few years. I was overwhelmed when she asked me to run for the Waterloo (Ont.) Regional Council. Nonetheless, she struck a chord when she said, “I think you should run because you ask good questions.” One quality of Jesus that has always stood out to me is that he asked good questions, but I had never seen that in myself.
Years ago, my opa encouraged me to get involved in politics. I thought I might someday, but I assumed that day would come much later. Yet when I met with more experienced elected officials within days of my friend’s suggestion, I was surprised that they too encouraged me to run and offered to support my campaign.
For me to be faithful in this meant learning as much as I could about the region. I discovered that if I won, it could be an answer to my prayers: I could advocate for supportive housing, I could make the city that I live in more accessible, and I could apply my social work expertise in meaningful ways.
Within 48 hours of filing my candidacy, I contracted COVID-19. I thought this was God’s way of closing the door. But no sooner had I recovered than a retired colleague in communications called me and said, “Can I help you?” She rallied another former colleague, and before long we had a website, contact cards, lawn signs, and newspaper articles. Infection-related immunity meant I could engage in all manner of campaigning.
Throughout the campaign, I prayed God would guard my heart. I had been warned I would face gender bias, ageism, and ableism. Many cautioned that I wouldn’t get many votes if I didn’t go door-to-door, but I couldn’t do that because many houses are not wheelchair accessible. So we became creative. I made myself accessible at public locations and events. Members of my church and friends put up lawn signs and delivered my cards. Candidates running for other offices delivered my literature along with theirs. This transformed my notion that politics is cutthroat. If we could be this collaborative throughout a campaign, we could certainly collaborate around the regional table.
Oct. 24, 2022, was significant to me not just because it was Election Day, but because it was the 29th anniversary of Tracy Latimer’s death. Tracy was a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy whose father took her life because he believed she was in too much physical pain. This tragedy has shaped my life and my purpose in many ways. I am happy to show that everyone has a reason to live, and people can do surprising things when they have the support they need to thrive.
I knew that if I won the election it would change my life, but I had not considered that it would change others’ lives too. Shortly after the results were in, I received a note from a mother who touched my heart. She said, “Finally, my daughter who has disabilities has someone to look up to in the government.”
One of the reasons my relationship with Jesus is so valuable is because he knows me inside and out. I was thrilled to be elected because it shows that my community views me not only as a woman, as a person with disabilities, or as a young politician, but as a capable leader.