I want to tell you a story about bravery, about love of country, and about how strongly women feel about this election.
I’ve been staffing the local Get Out the Vote Center. People show up to canvass or to phone bank. My job is to call people to remind them of their shift, sign them in when they show up, get them buttons and stickers, and to send them either to the room for canvassers (where they get some training and are given a packet with materials to hand out and a list of addresses to visit) or to the room for phone bankers (where they get some training and are given a list of people to call and a script for what to say). This starts early in the morning and runs until the final canvassers get back, generally around 6:30 or 7:00 pm. I also meet them when they get back, collect their materials, listen to how it went — and ask them if they’re willing to sign up for another day.
Today, there was a bit of a crush at one point — canvassers returning with their materials and folks showing up for their shifts and I was trying to move people as quickly as possible through the process. Are you here to canvass? Sign this sheet, take buttons and stickers, and go there. Are you here to phone bank? Sign this other sheet, go into the next room, and Bob, the man in the blue shirt, will get you started. We had parents with little children, older couples who’ve done this many times, young women from a local university who were very excited to canvass. “We canvassed for Hillary and promised each other that we’d do it from then on.” (I have visions of them as old women, holding each other up and moving from room to room in the nursing home. Actually, there’s a good story or screenplay to be written there.)
One woman waited until everyone else was gone and I asked her, “So are you here to canvass or phone bank?” She got a bit weepy and started to apologize. She was doing that thing we do when we’re crying — and are embarrassed about crying — where we wave our hands in front of our faces. She was able to tell me that she knew that she couldn’t canvass, but she’d agreed to come in and phone bank but, now that she was here, she realized that she just couldn’t do it. She’d thought that maybe if she pushed herself outside her comfort zone, she’d be able to manage, but now, faced with calling strange people on the phone, she just couldn’t, but she had wanted to come in and explain to me why she couldn’t, instead of just not showing up. (And it was clear that even that had been difficult for her.) She was apologizing, and weeping, and obviously feeling terrible. She said, “I was afraid I couldn’t do this, but I feel so strongly about this election, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. If I could do it, I would. It’s so important but I can’t; I just can’t. I wanted to, but . . . .”
I told her not to worry; we’re all doing what we can. There’s a reason this old woman with a bad ankle is staffing the center and not canvassing.
I asked her if she’d like to stay and do data entry for us. (When the canvassers come back, the information they’ve collected gets entered into a database for the next campaign. This apartment building won’t let people in to canvass; take it off the list. This house has just been sold and the new owners aren’t Democrats. The woman in this house said she can drive people to the polls on Election Day and her next door neighbor wants a yard sign.) She wouldn’t have to talk to or call anyone. She could just sit in the main room and enter information into a computer and help not only with this election, but with the next one. (This is Virginia. We have some election or another EVERY goddamn year.) Her shoulders dropped, she took a deep breath, and she nodded. I turned her over to the woman who coordinates data entry and, several hours later, when I left, she was still there, working away.
Because we love America (and because the Nazis scare us), many of us find ourselves doing things we never thought we’d do. We find ourselves doing things we don’t really want to do. As @MrsWhatsit1 has noted, she’s gone canvassing more than once, even though she really doesn’t enjoy it. I’ve driven a local candidate to canvass, even though I am directionally challenged (to put it mildly) and don’t like to drive during rush hour. Parents with toddlers are canvassing because they want to teach their children how to be good citizens. One mom reluctantly dropped her teen-age son off at a stranger’s house to phone bank after being assured that we’d feed him and show him what to do. (Food. These centers run on food. One family showed up today to drop off candy — heroes! If you can’t do anything else, you can go buy bagels. Fruit. Pizza. Show up and offer to make a Starbucks run. Seriously, the Starbucks run would win you an award. )
But I think one of the things I will always remember about this election, in which I’ve done so many things and talked to so many people, is a woman who was terrified, who pushed herself past the point of tears, and who found a way to help change the world. She’s doing what she can. And that’s all that any of us can do. But we can — and must — do that.
I’d love to hear in comments what you’re doing — and what you will do between now and 7:00 pm on the West Coast on Election Day. And thereafter.
Gif found here.