Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Colorful People Needed!

There are people in this world who we often refer to as "nuts", more as a term of endearment than an insult. We all know who the nuts are in our own communities and lives, and I started to think today about just how much less colorful our existence would be without them. There's a lady here in Middlesboro who fits that description. Her name is Angela Jackson, and Angela has become a friend of mine over the past year or so. I normally wouldn't mention somebody by name in a blog, but I know Angela won't mind if I tell her story, because I respect her and her personality.

Angela is one of those characters who'll cause you to stare, and upon first meeting her, you'll likely shake your head and roll your eyes. She's loud and opinionated, and she doesn't care who her vernacular may offend. Angela tells it like it is, and frankly, she doesn't care if that bothers you or not. When she adopts a cause as her own, she fights for it loudly and proudly. I first encountered Angela at a Middlesboro City Council meeting, where she stood up to speak out against the "pigeon schiavicki" gathering in the top floors of vacant buildings in downtown. I'll readily admit that, upon first hearing her speak, I though she was crazy. A week later, she showed up at one of our Discover Downtown Middlesboro Board meetings, with the same complaints about the "pigeon schiavicki". I kindly explained that we were a group of concerned citizens working toward revitalization in downtown, that we had no authoritative powers, and that we took the honey-attracts-more-flies-than-vinegar approach to working with downtown property owners. At that point, I was more convinced than ever that she was a nut.

Over the next few months, though, I got to know Angela a little bit better, and I watched her work, albeit from a distance. I realized that, while she had lived somewhere else for a few years and only recently returned to town, she has a deep love for Middlesboro and the people (well, most of the people) who live here. I realized that, while her methods are unconventional at best, there's a method to her madness. I watched as she worked with people I know she doesn't like, in order to get many necessary things accomplished. Angela attends almost every City Council meeting, and she always has something to say. I don't always agree with her, but I've come to admire her reckless abandon when she is fighting for her various causes.

The thing about Angela is, if she thinks you are a "lying bastard", she's going to tell you to your face. If she doesn't like you, she's going to tell you where to go, and exactly how to get there. While she comes across as coarse and even vulgar at times, she speaks her mind and doesn't sugar-coat anything. In the short time I've known her, I've never seen her behave selfishly, and she seems to have become Middlesboro's own patron saint of forgotten causes. Even if you disagree with her methods, it is hard to fault her (or anybody else for that matter) for standing up for something that would be of no personal benefit to her but would be of great benefit to others.

Many people will simply judge Angela Jackson, and those like her, without ever getting to know them as individuals. Because they do not conform to the norms of society, it is easy to dismiss them outright, without ever actually hearing them out. However, I'd encourage anybody to get to know characters like Angela. Mixed in with the colorful language, loud delivery and off-color comments, she actually has some good ideas. The fact is, although she may be tactless in the delivery of her message, we need people like her in our society. In addition to keeping the rest of us honest and on our toes, they make life much more colorful.

Today at lunch, I ran into Angela. I asked for her vote in the upcoming City Council election, and she said she would not only vote for me, but that I could put one of my signs in her yard. Coming from her, that is an enormous compliment. Typical politicians may scoff at the support of a "nut" like Angela, but I'm proud to have it, because I think we need more people like Angela Jackson in the world.

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