I lived in the moment with such joy and saw the most beautiful future with a man whom I loved. But just a few months after our decision to sail on, my fiancé sent me packing. To this day I don’t understand what happened. I didn’t see it coming.
The pain in my whole being was so severe I couldn’t eat or sleep. I didn’t want to be dead, but I also didn’t want to be living. I had lost the man I loved, my home, and found myself without any money or job. I felt as if I had been evicted from my life. In a moment’s notice, my passion, purpose and hope disappeared.
A few weeks later I got a call from my sister who excitedly informed me that City Year Co-Founder, Alan Khazei, would be running for US Senate. With the best of intentions for both Alan and her little sister she said, “This will be great- you can volunteer with the campaign! It will be good for you.” I tried to mimic her enthusiasm, but the truth is that I was so consumed by my own sadness I couldn’t yet see how Alan would once again change my life.
Personally I feel indebted to Alan for the selfless contributions he has given to our communities and country over the past 22 years, but also for the profound impact he has had on my family’s life. When my sister was going through a difficult time in her life she found a mentor in Alan and a home at City Year, the service organization modeled after the Peace Corps. Alan helped my sister find her life’s purpose. I was only a child at the time, but the influence Alan had on her subsequently helped to inform who I am today and certainly guided me to my life’s purpose to fight for a more sustainable and just world. Following in my sister’s footsteps, I joined City Year as a corps member and became one of the 575,000 Americans contributing service under AmeriCorps, the organization inspired by City Year.
One might assume I would have jumped at the chance to volunteer with the campaign to elect Alan so that he could positively impact millions more the way he has already so gracefully done in his leadership of City Year and Be the Change, Inc.. That assumption would be wrong. There was no jumping. There was no enthusiasm. I could barely get through the day without crying (yes, there were many embarrassing moments). Despite feeling incredibly sorry for myself I slowly started to get involved with the Alan Khazei campaign. I attended events where Alan was speaking, learned more about where he stands on the issues and was deeply moved by the enthusiasm of his supporters. Alan’s inspiration for a better future became contagious. I never expected a political candidate could help to heal my heart, but then again, Alan is not just a political candidate.
Alan Khazei is the kind of leader we need in the Senate. I don’t just mean we want him – we NEED him. He is the candidate beholden to citizens and as such he is refusing to accept any lobbyist or PAC money. Right now there are 300 lobbyists per senator – no wonder nothing ever gets done! Alan has a track record of getting things done; he has a track record of change. He has led the national service movement, created thousands of jobs, and has worked on four major pieces of legislation positively affecting millions of people. He has an understanding of the nuances of legislation and how it will impact people directly. Alan’s life has been about serving others.
While I can’t say that I am totally over my heartache, Alan’s message of Big Citizenship and his dedication to solving the most pressing issues of our time has reminded me what life is really all about. This was particularly on my mind the other day as I stood in a pawnshop with tears in my eyes and ring in my hand. It should not have come as a surprise to learn that the engagement ring was flawed. Pragmatically and with purpose I unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a better price with three other dealers, all of whom seemed completely familiar with my circumstances. Fittingly, I ended up at the same store where the ring had originally been chosen for me.
I sold a piece of my past in order to create possibilities for the future. I am donating the money to the Alan Khazei campaign.
I daydream that a ring that once represented my future and love will be transformed into the realities of a more sustainable and just world through Alan’s work to create jobs, reform education, provide affordable health-care, and serve the people of this country.
Please help make this dream a reality. If you are disillusioned by politics, if you want change, the kind of change Obama is trying to accomplish, then vote for Alan Khazei on December 8. Volunteer. Donate. Vote. Be a Big Citizen. Alan changed my life for the better, and he will change yours too.
Alyssa Grinberg can be reached at