It's all about teamwork

We read a lot of negative stories about politicians at the national and state level getting run out of office, but we don't hear much about the neighborhood politicians who are attending the meetings, returning the phone calls and making sure the streets get cleaned and the snow gets plowed. Not much glory, but it's my kind of wholesale politics. Tip O'Neill famously would say, "that all politics is local," but I've always believed that "all politics is personal." In other words, treat every call and request as if it's the most important thing you do all day. When a constituent calls an elected official with a request, for that caller, it is the most important thing and it should be for the politicians, too.

Last week, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, The Literacy Connection and Women's Table in Brighton and Allston, paid a special and well-deserved tribute to State Rep. Kevin Honan, who represents the Allston-Brighton district of Boston.

Rep. Honan is one of the most dedicated political leaders I have ever met. Honest, determined and fiercely loyal to the diverse community and people he represents. I've known the entire Honan family for over 35 years and his parents represent all that is special about Boston. I even taught young Kevin and his brother Brian how to shoot a basketball at the Faneuil Public Housing Development when they were kids -- that's how far back I go with Rep. Honan. Mayor Marty Walsh was also on hand at the Annual Award Luncheon, as was Sheriff Tompkins, City Councilor Mark Ciommo and South Boston Rep. Nick Collins.

Listening to the heroic care givers at the luncheon talking about the many needy people they help everyday, I thought to myself, "This is the part of Boston we don't often hear about." Not the rich, famous and powerful, but the unsung heroes. I hope we never lose focus on the caregivers of our communities -- the people who remain true to God, themselves and their neighbors.

The Sisters have done more than educate thousands of Boston-area children over the last century; they have been on the front lines in the Catholic Church's relentless effort to help struggling, poor and working class families. We could go to any area of the country and hear stories of all the good work they have done -- they work and volunteer in nursing homes, parishes, non-profits, and schools -- but you would never know that if you depended on the media to inform you.

Believe me, I saw firsthand the work our religious sisters did while growing up in South Boston, which was than largely made up of first- and second-generation Americans. At Gate of Heaven School, the nuns not only made sure that we knew about Shakespeare, but also that we memorized our Baltimore Catechism. I'm sorry if I don't have any disturbing stories to tell you about how strict and mean the nuns could be, as we often read about. My experience was very different: study, homework, prayer and helping out in the community. The nuns were kind and caring.

Paul Rouse was our star classmate at Gatey. He played the piano and we learned every Broadway hit show song by the time we were in the 4th grade, thanks in large part to our music teacher, Sister Rosalinda. We developed an appreciation for music and arts at an early age. We can still see now Father Paul Rouse every week, playing the piano on Catholic Television's program, "Going My Way."

One of the Sisters came up to me later and said, "Mayor, your entire career was always about helping people, especially the weak and vulnerable."

And why wouldn't it be, Sister? I learned this at an early age from my parents, my neighbors and certainly from the good Sisters of St. Joseph like you.

Sister, I also learned about the importance of teamwork a long time ago. Not just in playing sports, but also in life. Everybody is part of the team. We all win when we work hard together. We are all on the same team and God is our coach.

Following Tuesday's election, we all heard in the media how this election was a referendum against incumbent elected officials everywhere. We were told that people are fed up with politicians everywhere. That's not true in places like Brighton, South Boston, Dorchester and other working class neighborhoods of Boston.

Thanks for honoring my good friend Kevin Honan today, I said. He brings out the best in government and America. With homelessness and income inequality in Boston and Massachusetts dramatically on the rise, we have to get back to basics once again. Our country needs more people like Kevin Honan, our caregivers and yes, the Sisters of St. Joseph, who help the homeless, sick and people who are "temporarily down on their luck," as my mother would say.


- Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.