Anybody remember the children’s book series, “Where’s Waldo?”

It’s okay if you’ve never heard of it or don’t remember, because I’m going to give you a little bit of background information about the book. Is that alright with you? Cool!

”Where’s Waldo?” was actually one of my favorite book series, and I got even more excited when I learned that it would also be turned into a TV show.

“Where’s Waldo?” was first released in 1978, by illustrator Martin Handford. In the book, Handford did an outstanding job of introducing his readers to the main character—Waldo —a distinctively dressed man, who sets off on a world-wide hike, traveling to everyday places like the beach or the ski slopes to the zoo and other exciting places.

“Where’s Waldo?” featured twelve separately detailed, two-page illustrated scenes of the different locations. But here is what made the book so fascinating to me, and to others who were fans of the book like me.

On each of the two-page illustrated scenes, Waldo is located somewhere amongst the crowded scene. The readers of the book are asked to look at each scene to locate our lost traveler—Waldo.

Each scene is accompanied by a postcard from Waldo to the reader, where he introduces the scene to the reader and subsequently comments on his travels. Waldo then sets out on his journey, equipped with twelve items to help him on his travels.

At the very end of the book, there is a checklist of other things that Waldo wants the reader to find on each page. Readers are asked to go back to the beginning, re-explore each scene, and then locate the other objects, gag items and people in each picture.

All-in-all, “Where’s Waldo?” made for an interesting time, particularly because they did not make it easy for the reader to find Waldo or his clues.

I know you are probably asking yourself, “Why in the world am I talking to you about a children’s book?” Well, I am glad you asked, because I have a question for you.

As an observer of the political landscape in your respective cities, have you found there to be any similarities between the character Waldo in the book, and many of the people who choose to run for office?

Let me be more specific. Have you had any trouble locating many of the people who choose to run for office, especially after they lose an election?

I can tell you that I have. Let me go further.

So many times I see people who claim to be public servants, or who seek to want to represent the community as public servants, avoid the public as servants. Let me be a little clearer, in case I confused someone with that last sentence.

I believe you can always tell a tree by the fruit it bears. If individuals who run for public office were truly public servants, they would continue to serve the community even if they lose their election.

I need you all to think about what I’m saying for a minute, if you will, before you start judging me.

Do any of you honestly remember even half of the folks who knocked on your door, sent you some literature, called your house, showed up at your church, that were running for office just within the past year or two?

If you would be completely honest with yourself, you would acknowledge that you know you haven’t seen any of those folks in your community, or even heard from any of them since they last were soliciting your vote.

Where did they go? Where did they disappear to? Where’s Waldo?

Where have all the folks who claim they can do the job better than the incumbent, or who claim to be better than the other candidates, or who claim that they can take care of all your needs and issues, or who profess to be a voice for the voiceless, gone? Why have they become mute all-of-a-sudden?

I tell you where most of them are. Licking their wounds after losing, and trying to figure out what’s next.

More importantly, I will tell you where most of them are not….in the community. They aren’t working in the community for the people, because they never were in the community working for the people. They were just providing lip service, in order to hold a position of perceived power and authority.

If they really cared about the community, then where are they now? Are they being a public servant, by avoiding the public when they aren’t running for public office?

The proof is in the pudding. And trust me, I’m not letting any of the elected officials who actually won their elections and currently serve, off the hook. They have even more of a responsibility to serve the public that elected them to represent them.

I believe we should challenge all political candidates, both past and present, as well as those who are currently holding a seat in public office, not to go into hiding like the character Waldo.

Don’t make your presence in the community so hard to identify that people stop looking for you and forget about you.

So I’m sending a message to all former, current and future political candidates. Whatever the outcome of your election, please stop making it hard for the people to find you like the character Waldo.

But hey, even if you do decide to go into hiding and fall off of the grid, at least give us all some clues so we know how to find you when we need help or if we need you to do the things you said you would do if you were elected.

You don’t have to be an elected official to make a difference in your community or to be a public servant. All you have to do is make a difference, and serve the public.

Not only will the people see your good works, they will also remember it and that may be what helps you get elected next time.

I challenge everyone who professes to want to make a difference as a true public servant to stay involved, stay engaged and stay connected to our communities and the people who reside there.

In the meantime, don’t be like most of these fly-by-night political candidates: You know the ones I’m referring to, that are…here today and gone tomorrow.

Be better. Be different. Be a difference maker. Be a true public servant – with or without the title.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper.

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