What I want for my son – and yours

From the St. Louis American

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Here is what I want for my son, and for yours.

Tishaura Jones for Mayor of St. LouisA spirit of volunteerism. As a public servant and a private citizen, I make it a priority to be a volunteer. Often, I bring my son Aden along with me and try to make it a lesson for him that there are many people who are less fortunate than he is, a lesson that there is always something that a person can do to make the world a better place.

A desire to stay. St. Louis needs to keep its talent. Too many of the city’s promising people go away for school and decide to live somewhere else afterwards. Aden knows how important this city is to me, and how important it is to his family that he retains his St. Louis citizenship.

A desire to go (and then come back). I hope that Aden cultivates a sense of adventure. Other places offer educational opportunities and insight into what our city could be. It’s why I have traveled extensively as a state rep and as treasurer. I want my son to view himself as an ambassador: someone who can represent St. Louis well in other places, and then bring the best parts of those places back with him.

An open mind. I am lucky to say that I have friends who live all over the city, state and country, who come from all backgrounds and teach me all sorts of different things. I hope that Aden experiences the city as One St. Louis, that he actively seeks opinions that are different from his own so that he can expand his mind and make well-informed decisions.

A willingness to seek help. When my son has a problem, I hope he knows that he can ask for help and that there are people who want to help him. As I learned in my 20s, it’s too easy to become holed up in your own world, in your own problems, and watch things spin out of control. Large problems can be prevented if the small ones are addressed early enough. That’s the theory behind the city’s Office of Financial Empowerment.

An eye to the future. Like many parents, I find that thinking about my son growing up and moving on is bittersweet. I want him to always be growing, always be learning. I want him to take tomorrow as seriously as he takes today.

A sense of humor. I’m lucky that my house is full of laughter (credit my dad for that), and I hope that Aden takes that into the rest of his life. I also hope he always thinks I’m as funny as he does now. That hope might be in vain.

An open heart. Starting from a place of love removes so many barriers that society inflicts upon us. Empathy, compassion and care for others are the best qualities for which I could hope for Aden.

A sense of history. History teaches us the “why” – why race relations are the way they are, why black lives matter, why there are gross economic disparities, why the city has embraced technology so slowly. History is an important marker of how far we’ve come, and should be one of many things that are considered when making decisions. Change is a good thing. Change is a necessary thing. I hope that Aden always understands where he came from.

A belief in himself. I tell Aden all the time how proud I am of him. While I wish it were, it’s not enough for him to know his momma believes in him. He has to believe in himself. I want Aden to throw himself headfirst into the things he cares about, into the things he wants for himself and his community, and I want him to believe that he can be the change he wants to see in the world.

Tishaura O. Jones, currently St. Louis treasurer, is a candidate for mayor in the March 7 Democratic primary election.

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