Last Sunday, I knocked on the doors of complete strangers. I left the warmth of my wood stove because I’d committed to volunteering a few hours to getting the vote out. I headed out to the Democratic Headquarters where the young and eager staff downloaded an app on my phone that gave me a street-by-street map of the neighborhood I’d be canvassing. Addresses included names, ages and voter affiliation of residents – with each house on my app with at least one Democrat resident.
At 3:00 PM it was cold and windy in the unfamiliar neighborhood assigned to me in my city of roughly 88,000 residents. The streets were empty and at house after house almost no one opened the door. I get it. I hate when people ring my bell. It’s never a good time. My mind, my beliefs, have never been changed by a stranger on my doorstep. So what was I thinking? Honestly, I acted on the impulse that I had to do SOMETHING.
Being the good girl that I am, I did my best to complete my assignment of visiting about 40 houses. A few doors did open and politely accepted my literature for the local Democratic candidates. One man was even enthusiastic. But finally, when one of the rare white guys on my list with an Irish name and a hipster beard to boot, opened his door just long enough to bark “NO!” at me before slamming it, I packed it in. Knocking on doors is not for me.
However, I did take the day off so I can drive people to the polls on election day.
I did this in 2016 and delivered 7 votes for Hilary. Unlike door-knocking, it was very rewarding. The voters were fellow city residents, all 70 and older, all but one, African American. Almost all of them had moved up from the South in the 1950s – part of the Great Migration. I loved hearing their stories.
A man without any teeth, reeking of alcohol but wearing a crisp, white shirt was beaming after casting his vote. He told me it was the first time he’d ever voted. I couldn’t help asking how he missed voting for Obama? But I could guess. His wife had trouble walking and remained in the car (FYI: ballot will be brought to the car by an election official if you can’t make it inside) and we’d been commiserating about loving someone with addiction. And anyway, he’d voted this time. I wonder will he bother again?
Another woman reached into her pocket when we got back to her place and I was afraid she was going to try and pay me but instead, she handed me a mint wrapped in plastic. I kept it on my dresser for months – a sweet reminder of the inspiring part of that day and that despite the outcome, we’d done our part.
I won’t knock on doors but after these past two years, after this awful week — eleven Jewish elders including Holocaust survivors, gunned down with an assault rifle while they gathered in their synagogue, two African Americans – both beloved grandparents, out shopping, murdered by a racist in Kentucky, assassination attempts made on leaders and journalists — I must do something. This is a fight for our lives. Let me know if you need a lift to the polls.