By Ken and Chris Stone
Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus fame brought her group’s 40-foot vehicle to the Democratic National Convention, offering lemonade and hope.
The Santa Monica-born lawyer is on a two-week trip with her Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, which last week was in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.
“We think the anger and fear’s there because people don’t talk to each other about real stuff,” Campbell said Tuesday at the Philadelphia Convention Center. “We talk about the weather. We talk about sports. We talk about, you know, inconsequential stuff. That’s why we went to the Republican convention.”
Her group, which visited San Diego before the 2012 election, advocates an agenda called Mend the Gaps, which aims to reduce income and wealth disparity among other things. They planned roundtable discussions.
Campbell, 70, said the GOP didn’t give them workshop space — but the Democrats did.
“People talked to us [in Cleveland],” she said. “But the thing that worried me was that so many people had a hard time saying what gave them hope. They would go: ‘Uh, uh, er, uh.’ And then it would finally come up — ‘Oh, the Constitution. That gives me hope.’
“We have a lot to worry about.”
But the nuns offered GOP delegates cool relief, and will reprise that for the Democrats.
“We did lemonade ministry, which we’ll do tomorrow morning here,” Campbell told Times of San Diego on the day Democrats formally nominated Hillary Clinton for president. “We drag our wagon around and hand out ice-cold lemonade and try to interview folks about what they’re concerned about and what they hope for.”
She was troubled by the events in Ohio, however.
“We got so distressed at the name-calling, the hate-mongering, the angry rhetoric that we said: ‘This is not governance,'” she said. “They were treating it like it was some sort of prize fight. That’s why we went on the road. Another message needs to be out there.”
Calling it women’s work to “reweave the fabric of our society,” Campbell said: “We’re going to imagine what it would look like if we mended these gaps. We think that part of the problem is we can’t imagine that these gaps can be filled.”
Via circle chats, “We’re going to encourage people to face in, engage and make a difference,” said Campbell, still glowing about seeing Pope Francis speak to a joint session of Congress last September.
“I had tears in my eyes because I felt like I had finally been seen by Pope Francis,” she said. “What I realized was is to know that our activism is rooted in our prayer life. And that prayer in action is all about what we do. And he got it. It was such a joy. We still have trouble with [church] middle management.”
Campbell, author of “A Nun on the Bus,” said her travels have revealed issues that get little national attention.
“Housing is the most broken policy in our nation,” she said. “We’ve been everyplace in the nation and seen nothing but homeless folks, struggling folks — without affordable housing. It’s shocking.”
For the most part, politicians go by polls, doing what it takes to win and offer “the message that is most attractive to most people.”
“What we’ve realized is our politicians are important. But what really matters to make this change happen is we the people. We the people are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.”
Times of San Diego contributing photographer Chris Stone reported from Philadelphia, with contributing editor Ken Stone from San Diego.
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