Fuzzy Lines

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

-- Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III

I’m beginning to catch on. I’ve been fooling myself.

I cannot compartmentalize my existence. What were once intended as bright lines of demarcation are becoming fuzzier as the precipice draws ever nearer.

Last year, my wife walked away from a stable, successful career as a higher education administrator to manage a statewide political campaign.

I sat on the sidelines and kibitzed.

It was a campaign operated on a shoestring. Early in this election cycle, the big boys sucked up all the hard money leaving those downticket to scramble and scrape.

Among my wife’s gifts is to collect talented young people. In lean election years, dedicated, committed campaign staffers can make a difference.

This year, in this campaign, they did.

A handful of bright, able 20-something Kansans, who came of age and were molded in real Kansas places: Mount Hope, Cherryvale, Rose Hill. They believe in the promise of public service and they want to make a difference.

Before this year, I’d been to three Kansas Inaugural Balls. Once as a TV news reporter and twice as the Governor’s Press Secretary (‘99 – Kathy Mattea crooning

18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses

to a Governor who’d just as soon have been a

trucking company exec

, thank you very much).

I thought my Inaugural Ball going days were behind me. Woops. Seems I tripped over those fuzzy lines. Last night, I slipped into my tux and pasted on a smile.

Upon arrival, I didn’t even make it into the ballroom before it hit. Parking lot encounters sent me back in time.

So many old friends from the Graves years. Reconnecting with people who pulled together toward a shared goal in our years of public service made me wistful. The friendships mean more to me now than they did then.

Last night just reminded me of that. You don’t just assign them to a life compartment and walk away. You can’t.

I can’t.

As I approach the precipice, I find I place greater emphasis in my life on qualities I neglected in the rush to build a career and succeed: purpose, intrinsic motivation and meaning.

To the stars. With or without difficulty.

 I thought about this as I snapped this photo of Jackie’s campaign team (the next Attorney General and his wife are in the middle) but look at the 20-somethings.

The sons and daughters of Mount Hope, Cherryvale, Rose Hill.

They’re at the beginning of their public service. I admire their optimism and belief that their hard work, ability and energy can make a difference.

Public service done right is a beautiful thing. These new friends will do it right. Their gifts will improve people’s lives.

I hope their lines are always fuzzy.