Friends: today, I did something uncomfortable, inspiring, reaffirming, and important. I volunteered to get people registered to vote.
When you live in New York, you perfect the art of ignoring or turning down strangers who approach you with their agenda. “Excuse me!” they shout as you hustle back from lunch. “Do you care about pandas/polar bears/babies?” After a friendly response resulted in year of donating to Greenpeace, I learned to wear giant headphones, never make eye contact, and respond with a curt and forceful “no” if pressed.
I get it. I get that people just want to be able to buy some groceries and a pumpkin spice latte without being harassed. I understand being afraid that the person with the clipboard is going to prey on your friendliness and leverage it for their own cause. But this year, this election feels too important to be sidelined by awkwardness, fear of rejection, or trying to preserve your “cool.” So I put on my USA t-shirt, got my clip-board, and camped out by the Safeway entrance.
And you know what? It was incredible! Most people, when they heard I was registering voters and not trying to weasel them out of their money, were so incredibly kind. Many thanked me. Some wished me good luck. One lady gave me a homemade pecan tart, and another man offered me one of his donuts! Even a couple of Trump supporters (assuming I was stumping for Hillary…which…is fair) approached me jovially and politely.
If you base your opinions solely on what you see on the news, it would be easy to assume that Americans are filled with hatred and fear or have disengaged, but what I saw was a small army of folks with their hands full of grocery bags, holding their babies and dog leashes, stopping for a moment of shared humanity. Even if they didn’t agree with me.
By the end of two hours, I had registered two women to vote. One is a die-hard Hillary supporter and so excited to vote; the other is a roofer who’s still deciding her path. It was my honor and pleasure chatting with these ladies and helping them prepare to participate in our democracy. Two may not sound like a lot, but to me, it felt like a Sunday morning miracle.