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Millennial Life: The Hard Ask

Cassie McClure on

I've settled down to write at my kitchen table with my son playing on his computer across from me. I catch his eyes, and his cheeks squish as he smiles, probably still charmed by me being the Block Mom yesterday when I fed him and a few stray kids that haunt our street popsicles, then soup. My daughter was at a pool party, so an impromptu playdate with Nerf wars and a Godzilla movie seemed like the universe trying for balance. He ended up thanking me with an extra strong hug before bed.

It was the Fourth of July yesterday. We spent the evening first on our roof with sparklers, watching the neighborhood test their rockets in the twilight. I was struck by some peak millennial FOMO -- fear of missing out -- and decided to drive us all to the mall to watch the city display alongside other people less dedicated to the full experience of waiting on a university campus for the day. We parked alongside others who knew what they were about: an efficient appreciation of fireworks.

It was a day that was idyllic and a notably average American experience, aside from me feeling the stirring of my inner abuelita as I made soup during 103-degree weather. Perhaps not everyone strives for it, but normal has markers that allow for a semblance of easy living.

Except, nothing is normal right now, is it?

I received my first "may God have mercy on your soul," embedded in an email from a constituent. My crime was approving a 15-unit apartment complex on a busy road. Our town in not unique. We have less affordable housing than ever and more homeless people -- the latter usually decried by those in housing more glass-walled than they think.

From another email: "I have lived in (our city) for over 30 years now. I used to say I love this place. However, lately my husband and I are trying to decide if we should move due to all the increased homelessness and criminal activity. You cannot go anywhere in our once beautiful city anymore without feeling it in some shape or form. It doesn't feel safe to go anywhere. Are you feeling it too?"

I read her age with the two spaces behind the periods. But she took a turn that she may not have intended as earnestly as I took it: "What can a regular citizen do to make our city feel safe and beautiful again?"

I thanked her for reaching out and that hers was a good question: Beyond what elected officials can do, what can a regular citizen do?

I told her that for me, it's sometimes hard to put myself outside the stress of our own lives and do a deep dive on the lives of others or even understand their choices. But a huge component of the problem is that the gap between wages and rent has made life more precarious than it has before, without many safety nets in our community especially for those with mental health or substance abuse issues.

 

I told her that I didn't know her life experience, so it was hard to know what the best angle for her may be. I told her: You might be able to advocate for more housing to those who feel that housing might be a detriment to a neighborhood. You might be able to ask your church to see if they can do cleanups or outreach to those who need a hand up.

I detailed plans to support the police -- actually the most funded department in the city even as we're told how it's been so defunded (something I thought about as we had our tank roll by in the Fourth of July parade the day before).

I wrote about the three different housing complexes being built, one whose construction zone I walked through earlier this week. The foreman remarked how small the rooms were, and I thought about a little girl waking up in a room of her own, maybe with the smell of pancakes cooking.

I explained that what I outlined briefly were only two items in a host of initiatives the city is taking, but I detailed those to show that it's a balance between enforcement of crime and supporting resources for those in need. Plus, there are issues that supersedes the city's authority, such as competency for repeat offenders and large investment for mental health care.

I asked her keep reaching out to us electeds, to her legislators, and even more, to her neighbors. I then asked her to not lose hope. That might have been the harder ask.

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Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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