Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I messaged U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek via Facebook with information about a PAIRS class we were teaching in the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti community to help formerly homeless residents of a Carrfour Supportive Housing Community develop stronger relationships with their neighbors and loved ones. Almost instantly the Congressman personally responded via Facebook, directing me to his Miami District Director, Joyce Postell, with a request that I call her with information about the event. When we began the class several days later — sharing exercises to help the participants understand and express emotions, confide with loved ones, and work through conflicts in ways that deepen their closest relationships — Congressman Meek’s Director was there on his behalf.
I was immediately impressed with Congressman Meek’s responsiveness and technical savvy, his genuine concern for the residents of his District, and tangible desire to learn about innovative approaches to improving the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in our community.
We followed up with the Congressman Meek’s staff to schedule a personal meeting with him in Miami to give us a chance to share more with him about our work in his district and nationwide, hear from him directly about his longstanding efforts to support legislation and initiatives to improve the lives of his constituents, and talk about his campaign to become Florida’s next U.S. Senator.
We particularly wanted Congressman Meek to meet Xavier and Saylen Moore and their two young children, third grader David and first grader Xavier Junior. The Moore Family lives in Liberty City, one of America’s most distressed neighborhoods just miles from downtown Miami where drugs, crime, and deadly violence is part of the daily life of children and adults in the community. We met the Moore Family in February during a PAIRS’ training for parents of children at Liberty City Elementary School. The two of them represent only a small number of residents in Liberty City who are married. Recent statistics revealed that just one in ten Liberty City households include married couples. Their ability to navigate the challenges of their relationship has enabled them to actively support their children’s academic success and their own. Saylen Moore is just weeks away from completing her graduate degree in Social Work. Xavier Moore is Vice President of Liberty City Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association and, for the past six years, has been able to stay out of the crime and violence that is often the foundation of the lives and struggles of Liberty City’s residents, most of whom live in poverty.
At the beginning of March, as Xavier was preparing to follow-up on his experience in the PAIRS class by attending a four-day intensive program to deepen his skills and learn to help others in his community, his 19-year-old brother, Zachary, was shot to death walking home from a club. I called him after learning of the shooting, listening to his heartache over the loss of a brother he helped raise, and encouraging him to come to the training. He said he was coming for his brother, committed to learning and working in his memory to help create a different future for his family and others.
During his days in the training, other young people in Liberty City lost their lives to violence in the streets of the community. While Xavier used the tools he learned in PAIRS to release the intense emotions of his grief within the class, others were continuing to kill each other.
Saturday morning, as we were making final preparations for our meeting with Congressman Meek in Miami, his staff let us know that he had been held in Washington by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who had scheduled a historic vote on landmark healthcare legislation for Sunday. They said that Congressman Meek would attend via Skype so he could talk to the Moore Family and others and that his wife, Leslie Meek, had flown in from Washington to be with us in person.
Once again, the power of partnership became powerfully apparent. The Congressman’s partnership with his devoted wife allowed him to keep his commitment to our group through her presence. She listened and spoke on his behalf while Congressman Meek followed along via Skype and also offered words of comfort and encouragement to the Moore Family.
I cannot imagine a more tangible example of a dedicated public servant demonstrating his commitment to using every available tool to connect to his constituents. From Facebook and Skype to the meaningful message Leslie Meek’s support showed for empowering her husband’s passions and promises, the experience left each of us impressed, touched, inspired and hopeful.