Snow flurries swirled outside a church in North Highland as people lined up outside to pick up hot lunches in late January of this year. As I stood inside ready to help deliver these meals, the man who runs the program explained that many of the recipients lived within blocks of the church and this may be the only food they eat all day. His instructions to me were simple: hand them the Styrofoam box and say, "God bless you."
On a rainy Sunday after a forum at a church, a proud mother told me how her daughter had turned her life around over the last ten years. The young woman had been on a path towards juvenile delinquency but, thanks to the care and concern of a couple of law enforcement officers, was about to finish a professional degree in healthcare.
Moments of grace like these abounded during the six-month campaign for mayor. While our effort came up short, I benefited greatly from the experience and I am a better person for it.
While the news media focused on the tension of the election, the heart of the campaign for me was the relationships I developed with the people who supported me through their time, talent, and treasure. They walked neighborhoods, waved signs, made phone calls, stuffed envelopes, and many other tasks that make up the day-to-day work of politics. Many times, these dedicated folks did these things on their own, without prompting from me. I can never say thank you enough.
I became very close to many public safety officers during the campaign, spending countless hours listening to their ideas, their frustrations, their hopes, and their disappointments. Spouses of our bravest and our finest shared with me what life is like being married to a person whose instinct is to run towards danger while the rest of us flee from it. We are blessed in Columbus that men and women offer themselves to serve. I hope we always honor their commitment.
I met several ex-felons who were attempting to turn their lives around. One in particular has started a church group for young men in hopes they will avoid the path he took through prison. Another young woman has started a charity that tried to connect other ex-convicts to jobs so that they are less likely to fall back into old, destructive habits. As a community, we need both efforts to succeed.
The elected officials who lent me their influence took an especially large risk. Every step of the way, I kept in mind the sacred trust they had placed in me. Their advice and insight were critical during the process. I am honored by their support.
Sundays became my favorite day of the week. I would attend my home church for the 8:30 a.m. service and then visit one or two other churches. I joke that this cradle Catholic became a connoisseur of Baptist churches. Oftentimes, the pastor or another member would pull me aside and say, "Let me pray for you." Those moments strengthened me and renewed my sense of purpose. I am eternally grateful for them.
Door-to-door canvassing was my favorite activity. Something special happened when I would knock on a door and ask for a person's vote. People asked questions, often very tough ones, and expressed their opinions on some city policy or practice. While advertising seems to dominate politics, voters clearly want to look candidates in their eyes and shake their hands. I found that walking neighborhoods energized me and, more than anything else, connected me to voters.
My bride and our daughters supported me throughout the entire campaign. They know I love politics and willingly gave up our family time to help me pursue this goal. Perhaps the proudest moment of my life was when our 18-year-old daughter voted for the first time and cast her ballot for me. That is an occasion that I will never forget.
In fact, the most humbling moments were in the final three and a half weeks of the campaign. During early voting and on Election Day, many people told me they voted for me. No words can adequately express how honored I am by that act of support.
In the end, I lost the election but I gained so much more. As a native son, I thought I loved this community pretty intensely. This experience only made that love grow more. As someone who has been deeply involved in all kinds of community efforts, I thought I knew all the good work being done. I learned that our community is full of people quietly doing great things without recognition or wide support.
Cervantes said, "The journey is better than the inn." This journey did not end the way I wanted it to end but it was worth the effort. I am not yet certain what is next but I will be here to serve my community, my neighbors, and my friends. God bless Columbus.
Colin Martin, a Columbus native and former vice president for governmental affairs with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, is business manager at the medical clinic of his wife, Dr. Beth McKelvey Martin.