The one thing I always told the Lord I would never do is POLITICS. It was not open for discussion nor for negotiation. I've seen all those yucky campaigns where every skeleton in the closet is pulled out for public perusal. Even the repented-of-and-forgiven sins are fair game. I didn't want any part of that. When Rita Gentry (then alderman) showed up at my shop to discuss the possibility of my running for alderman, I was outwardly uncertain, but inwardly determined. NO WAY.
Some years before, I had heard Jean Wright say, "It's a sin to do what anyone else can do, and leave undone the one thing only you can do." Since then, I had tried hard to look for the "one thing". That evening, Jean's comment kept coming back to me. Rita had explained that there was going to be some kind of manufacturing company coming to the Wellspring Project site, just outside our town. There were tremendous challenges ahead, and she felt ill-equipped to handle it. "We need you to help," she kept saying.
I'd done a great job of hiding on my farm and in my medical practice for nearly two decades. I was not about to give up my anonymity. The more I prayed, however, the more it began to look like one of those "one things". I couldn't have stood to campaign and go through the rigors of an election that first time, nor the second time. God graciously allowed me to be elected by acclamation.
From the beginning of my time as an alderman, there was so much needed that all I knew to do was pray. I was worried sick about the coming manufacturer and prayed countless prayers about the environment and the trees. I was concerned about their commitment to our community and our area. I fretted and prayed. The day Toyota announced they were coming to Blue Springs, I wept tears of joy. Every prayer I had prayed was answered. This was an environmentally responsible company that focused on renewable energy and recycling. Nothing is wasted, and they are here to stay. I was thrilled.
From day one, I wanted a park. Well, really I wanted a lot of things, and a park was just a part of my big plan. I wanted a library, too, but there were other priorities in those early years. We needed a comprehensive plan, ordinances, zoning, a police department, a building code and inspector, annexation. It was always one giant challenge after another, but somehow we made it through. I even found time to become a Certified Municipal Official. There was so much more that I wanted for this sweet little town, but funds were nearly non-existent, and I couldn't see what to do but pray and dream.
Almost a year ago, Lynda Bramlett, a fellow alderman, and I attended Toyota's roll-out for the new Corolla. While there, we met someone from Toyota who was involved in the Monarch butterfly project. That was exactly the kind of thing that interested both of us, so we all exchanged cards. Several months later, we received an invitation to meet with a group of people at Toyota. They were interested in hearing what we needed and what they could do to help. Lynda and I went, thinking that perhaps they could help with a beautification project for the highway median. We were planning to plant monkey grass.
We went expecting help with monkey grass and found that they had a bigger plan in mind. Someone said, "What would you do if you had several hundred volunteers for a whole day?" I'd been thinking about that for years, and all my dreams spilled out. I cried as I talked. I was terribly embarrassed that I cried, but I couldn't help it. At some point during our conversation, I remember telling them how grateful I was that Toyota had come, because they made me a public servant. People in my family volunteer. We help. We try to make a difference. Well, I didn't, but lots of us have. Until Toyota. With the possibility of their arrival, I became a public servant, too. Now, a year into my third term, it seems like something I was born to do. (The voters may not feel that way, but I do.)
My vision poured out, and Lynda's as well. We left that day excitedly hoping for monkey grass, a little concrete and a pavilion for a farmer's market. The Toyota employees just said, "Let us see what we can do." There have been hints of a plan since that time, and they have assured us that it was going to be good. "You can trust us," they said. Indeed we could.
The press conference was scheduled for today. No leaks were allowed, so I had no idea how huge the plan was until the presentation. At 9:45 this morning, Sean Suggs, Toyota vice-president of administration, announced plans for the Toyota-Blue Springs Water Garden and Education Park. This generous company has poured out an amazing gift on this little town. Thank you, Toyota. I wept as he listed the features of the garden. You can read the press release for yourself (there's a link below), but suffice it to say, it was "exceeding abundantly above all I could ask or think." I am stunned, thrilled, incredibly grateful, and already making plans for how we will use this lovely education park. I can't wait!
The amazing thing is that every step in the process was vital. So was every prayer. Every person involved had an important part to play. This great gift was not given just because I prayed, or just because I wanted it. The plans of God and the generosity of an amazing corporation coincided. Today, it all came together and I began to get a glimpse of God's great plan. Do you know what's even more amazing? This isn't all of the plan. That's how God works. We just get a glimpse as He orchestrates more.