Rep. Tracy Estes: Simply listening...

Tracy Estes
Alabama State Representative
Serving House
District 17

Entering the holiday season, my schedule has not slowed in the least. While the visits and appearances being made might come in a post-election capacity, the purpose of the daily routine has remained the same--stay in constant contact with those being served.
Honestly, I am enjoying what I do. Whether visiting our local schools, senior citizens centers or in one private home after another, the conversations I am experiencing are each filled with passion and their own sense of personal emotion. Much of my day consists of simply listening to the concerns of those living in House District 17.
 While the economy is improving nationally--and even locally, to an extent--I continue to sit and visit with those who are hurting. I have listened to those who are losing their homes or have lost loved ones in recent weeks. There are those who are struggling to provide Christmas for their little ones or are facing issues with wayward children.
Regardless of the concern or need, there are those all around us who are hurting. And I am learning, there are those who simply want another to listen to their problems. There are those who feel as if their burdens are too great to bear and find themselves desperate for a listening ear. To them, this has more value than one can imagine.
In short, I am learning most in our society are seeking peace on earth during the Christmas season. Whether it is the frightening headlines being channeled into our homes via television in the evening or the personal battles many are facing closer to home within the four walls where they sleep, people want peace. There is something to be said for contentment and peace of mind.
Coming into this office, I had no grand vision that I could solve every problem within the district. Only the Good Lord himself has such power. But I was intent on listening and helping where I could. When asked to review an issue with a constituent, I tell them from the start I might not be able to remedy their crisis. But I do assure them I will try. There are several issues laid at my feet which have nothing to do with the job description. But there again, that is not the point. People need help and are seeking answers to their problems.
In those instances where my best efforts have failed, the persons still seem to have experienced some relief simply because another person slowed down enough to listen and care. The most haunting case and point to date has been the sounds of a sobbing elderly woman who is disabled and on a fixed income. She was expecting to be displaced from her home for three months or more as remodeling is scheduled for her public housing.

Listening to her broke my heart, but I listened. As I was heading into a local city council meeting one night in early December, she dialed my cell phone and began to cry. I pulled into the parking lot of a nearby church so I could listen and give her my undivided attention. Step by step, she carried me through the process and tears began to flow down my face. She has no family and feared being unable to face the impending battle alone. Taking her number, I promised to call her back by the end of the week.
Instead, I was able to visit with her landlord the following afternoon and learn more about her crisis. I was assured she would be cared for and would have the assistance she needed to cope with the hurdles which lie ahead. Calling her back, she cried again as she offered her appreciation. She stressed I had not made her feel rushed in our conversation nor had I had made her feel ashamed--not that she ever should have. There was a meeting scheduled between the woman and those running the facility where she lives and I encouraged her to keep me posted on the developments.
What I am learning is that this job is truly nothing more than a new form of public service. I have been in public service my entire adult life and have never regretted the investment of time. While state lawmakers grab the headlines for their work performed in Montgomery during the annual legislative session, it is really the work performed over the remaining nine months of the year which are the most critical.
Those days and weeks are the time when the legislator truly comes to know those he is serving and the issues so many face daily just to survive. Sitting and listening to constituents at the grocery store, athletic events, in their homes or over the phone is the most important service a lawmaker can provide the people of his district.

The relationships formed in these personal conversations are what empower those in elected office to be the most effective casting a vote. When you can see in your mind’s eye the faces of those being directly impacted by your vote in Montgomery, public service becomes even more real and fulfilling.
May God bless you for affording me this opportunity to serve House District 17.