TOXIC TOUR OF TEXAS
1988-1992
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PATSY OLIVER
Texarkana

      SO MANY PEOPLE don’t think that one person can make a difference, and really it has to start someplace, so let it start with me. There was a Sunday school lesson on TV one morning, and I was sitting there reminiscing and contemplating a lot of things, and this message came. I thought, “Lord, send me. I’ll go. I’ll try.”
      At first I became a member of FUSE (Friends United for a Safe Environment), and now I’ve gone all the way to national with being on the National Toxics Campaign Board. Four or five years ago I never thought my life would be affected in such a way. Ever since losing my mother, I became more involved. I became more determined to make a difference because I said I owe this to her. Now I’m in this for life. There’s no way I’ll get out. It’s the only thing I know. It’s an ongoing thing; an ongoing education everyday.
      We had a wonderful, wonderful summit in Washington, D.C. last October (The United Church of Christ’s Peoples’ Summit). It was multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-everything. The march up to Capitol Hill...beautiful, very spiritual. The Lord met us there. He took us all away. This work has to be with you spiritually because if you are in it for the glory, there is no need in even thinking about it. There’s a lot of late hours, a lot of sacrifices to be made. But you are going to be part of a tradition. It’s and ongoing, ongoing thing. And that’s where you get your feeling from.
      You start with one thing, and find small accomplishments and satisfaction doing it, and before you know it, you are so wrapped up in it, it becomes a part of you.
It’s like a second skin really. You go through so many hardships and you can identify and be empathetic with so many people, that when you thought you were out there alone and powerless, it gives you a certain identity. I think that’s the only way I can say it.
      And then it makes you stronger with yourself. You come from being an “hysterical housewife” one day to being a person that says, “No, we are going to make a difference.” And you stop becoming an “I” person, then you become a “we” person, and it changes your whole life. It’s a marriage of sorts. It really is. You are reborn. That’s the way I feel.
      This a part of my life that destroyed the part that I thought was good. I found out that I wouldn’t be able to put my life together in a whole way that I would like, but I’m not going to give up. Then you find others who have just as bad off or even worse than you. And these types of environmental and human health problems are happening everywhere; all over. It’s a universal thing; a global thing. And you say, “Oh, this wouldn’t happen to us in the United States. We are U.S. citizens. This is America.” But this is where it’s happening all the time. We just aren’t aware of it.
      You know, people are votes, and if we are ever going to remain doing things in the American way, within the system we have in place, we must vote. And if you can’t talk to them and make a difference, you can vote them out; one or the other. And put someone in who knows at least how you are feeling. If you don’t then you won’t have a world anymore because we are destroying it from within. It’s ignorance and neglect. Well, it’s a lot of things.