Today, we harvest blackberries. Today, we also decide to run for state-wide office. If you have had the pleasure, well then no explanation is required. But for those of you who have not, allow me to enlighten. Blackberry picking, like politics, is a delicate balance of patience, perseverance, and presence, with a pinch of providence. Harvesting these sweet tender plump fruits reaps rewards, but comes at a sharp cost. You see, blackberry bushes are part of the rose family. Although a rose by any other name is still a rose, these canes called brambles house razor sharp prickles, designed to pierce denim and embed in the skin. Sounds terrible, but the risk is worth the reward. Venturing into politics is also fraught with the danger of injury and the need for a serious cost-benefit analysis.
Patience with blackberries is a must, because unlike other fruits these berries will not continue to ripen after the harvest. This fruit must be picked at its peak of maturity otherwise it will remain sour. Yet, if you wait too long, birds, bugs, and deer will snack on the berries. And when animals snack on fruit, they take one bite then move on to the next berry, similar to us and a big box of chocolates.
Patience, a virtue in short supply in the political arena, is required from those of us who face the steep campaigning learning curve. There is a need for patience with oneself and voters alike. Self-patience in pacing your crusade for the long haul seems to be the most challenging. Naturally everyone gets excited when you first announce, but may quickly burn-out as the venture goes on for months. A candidate is well served to sit down with a trusted friend and draw out a 30, 60, 90-day plan. This exercise brings into focus immediate needs and forms the basis for a strategic campaign plan. In addition, it creates a framework for team discipline. “Patience my a**, I want to kill something,” is not a strategy. The fruits of your politic labor ripen slowly, but are worth the wait.
There is ‘Power to the People’ and ‘Power in Perseverance’. Pursuing the blackberry harvest involves a twice a day trip to the field as berries will ripen with sunrise and the sunset. After hiking out to the brambles, you gently thread your bare arms and naked hands through the maze of prickles and leafs trying to coax that one plump berry off the cluster. The fruit does not surrender itself so easily, but hides behind greenery, near the ground, or just beyond your reach. So you must lean, bend, and stretch to obtain the best of the fruit. To pursue any political position, you too will lean in, to listen to the question beyond the question. You too will learn to bend without breaking your values, your principles, or your heart. And you will stretch and contort your mind around the issues important to your votes, who will bear their souls, their savings, and expect solutions to their problems. Then there will be those days, that despite all your efforts you will come up short and go home with nothing to show for your thorn encrusted hand. Talk about testing your resolve and yet you persevere.
Finally, the silent blackberry bush screams for attention. To harvest these delicate berries, attention to detail at every pick is vital. Glancing down the row for the next berry is a sure way to puncture an arm, snag a shirt or miss the snake lurking beneath the bush. Laser-focus on the task at hand is the only way to safely harvest. A laser-focus on the moments in the campaign demands the same measure of attention. To lock eyes with the person before you and give them your full attention is a skill to master. To relish the $5 dollar donation as much as the $5,000 speaks to your humility. And to stay attentive, when everyone around you screams to move on to the next event, fund-raiser, conference call, or meeting, truly demands a providence of presence. For you can only harvest the bounty of your political labor by patiently, pursuing every single moment you have, for your greatest asset is indeed.