Official Washington and Forgotten Washington

Yesterday I was driving around northeast D.C.  I was on streets I’d never been on, cruising around with two of my favorite insightful people (whom I happen to have given birth to).  We were talking about how many versions of our city there are to discover, how many different parallel universes there are that don’t overlap.

Leaving the manicured lawns of one part of town and driving through the back alleys of another got me thinking about how — in D.C. at least — there is official Washington and then there is forgotten Washington.

And I am grateful for Michelle Obama’s attempts to bridge the two. There was an article in The Washington Post yesterday entitled, “The first lady’s trio of very different VIPs,” about three people who run wonderful social services organizations here in the city (Miriam’s Kitchen, Mary’s Center and Martha’s Table) being invited to the state dinner for the president of Mexico.  I appreciated this paragraph:

“… they are not part of boldface Washington. They work in the ‘other’ Washington, the city that does not transform every four years, the one that struggles with poverty and HIV, the one in which politics is an obstacle course to survive rather than a game to be won.”

This just affirms what I know — that politicians come and go, that the “who’s in, who’s out” status is fleeting.  And that while those on top struggle to stay there, there are many unsung heroes who work day in and day out, year after year, chipping away at issues and aches of injustice, feeding another child, giving another ride to a doctor’s appointment, hanging in there with someone battling addictions, drumming up another winter coat, or seeking a few more dollars.  I see this at two places I particularly care about — the Central Union Mission and Samaritan Inns.

I’m grateful for Michelle Obama using her platform to call all of us to care more about “forgotten Washington,” and I’m challenged to think about the usefulness of my own relatively insignificant platform in encouraging others to consider both sides of town.


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