I never officially met Lindy Boggs; although, our paths crossed at several press conferences and public functions in the late ‘70s, during her career as a Louisiana Congresswoman and mine as a local newspaper reporter. Her legendary combination of Southern charm and savvy legislating intrigued me then, and inspires me now, as I work with colleagues to try to save an organization that carries not only Boggs’s name, but also her dedication to women’s rights and the obligation to take care of the disadvantaged in our community.
Lindy’s Place was founded in 1992, as a way to help homeless women break the cycle of poverty by helping them to become emotionally and economically self-sufficient. The support services offered at Lindy’s Place have helped hundreds of women transition from the streets into jobs, and to become contributing members of society.
For the past 25 years, the organization has been largely funded by a grant from HUD. When Lindy’s Place director Mary Smith got an unexpected phone call this spring announcing that the grant would no longer be forthcoming, she was stunned. Since then, she and her staff and board members (including me) have been working tirelessly to keep the organization afloat. To that end, a Gospel Music Extravaganza on Saturday, Dec. 17, will raise funds to help keep Lindy’s Place open.
Lindy Boggs started Lindy’s Place with Sister Clarita Bourque, who had long dreamed of a residence for homeless, unaccompanied women. Sister Clarita still talks about her friend with affection and the wry sense of humor that characterized both women. The anecdotes about Lindy are legendary.
There’s the one Sister Clarita told me about an elevator ride Lindy shared with a fellow politician, during which she used her winning combination of velvet and steel to gain a concession for a project she was championing. Mrs. Boggs, he would later quip, picked his pocket of $10 million on a two-minute elevator ride.
Or Lindy’s response when, as Ambassador to the Vatican, she was asked by a friend how one addresses the Pope. “I just call him Darling,” she replied. But then Lindy called everyone that.
Perhaps Lindy’s most endearing and enduring trait was her selflessness.
“Lindy had a basic sense of human decency, warmth and kindness that was totally genuine,” retired Criminal Court Judge Terry Alarcon told Clancy Dubos in a remembrance of the Congresswoman that appeared in Gambit. “She was always more interested in other people’s lives and problems than her own.”
There’s a lot still to learn from Lindy Boggs. Lessons about kindness and charity, about respect for others, about a positive outlook and the belief that one can instigate change, particularly in what has become an increasingly hostile and selfish world.
“So many people are walking around looking so grim all the time. I just never understand why,” Lindy is quoted as saying.
On Saturday, you can put Lindy’s life lessons to work by supporting Lindy’s Place, which embodies so many of this remarkable woman’s ideals. And better yet, it will be fun: No one will be walking around looking grim there!