Deb Davison is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
Last night I volunteered at the Democratic Campaign office of Scotch Plains, NJ. After a long full day of mind-numbing work, I drove over to meet my young(er) volunteer colleagues to join them in calling potential voters. From my perspective the calls were intended to be openings for discussion, hope for a chance to clarify positions, a time of encouragement, taking just a few minutes out of our long, hard day to let the light in on what the possibilities are for America's future. Something very different from my day job, to say the least. Still I had small expectations and was maybe a bit concerned I might intrude on someone's only chance in the day to relax and forget about their troubles.
As I called newjersyans I was rather spellbound by their hearts, their thoughts shared in great emotion. I spoke mostly to single moms who were working two and three jobs to support their families. Not because I had a list of single moms to call, it's just that only the single moms were willing to talk about how they are going to vote. No one else seemed to have the interest in this election, or at least the willingness to open up about it. Some husbands answered and passed my call along to the women I was reaching out to. These women, in most cases with their husbands in the background, quietly, meekly said, "I just can't talk about that right now." So I just wished them well and thanked them, hoping they'd excuse my brief intrusion. I certainly didn't want to turn any of them off from voting, wherever their loyalties lie. Not one man on the list would engage in discussion. Many just didn't pick up their phones. Understandable. Still, I was surprised.
Blanca, one of the voters who was willing to talk, shared her deep feelings about how confused she was. Blanca was so open, so honest, so clearly concerned that she make a good choice, the right choice. She told me she's Hispanic, and I felt my heart soften as I heard a slight change in her voice revealing an edge of fear I'd stop listening to her when she revealed this fact, that she'd voted Republican all her life. She exclaimed as her voice became louder that she's just so confused about voting that way. Blanca told me of her worries about keeping her home, keeping her three jobs, having enough money for gas, enough for heat, clearly expressing her complete and overwhelming confusion about all the ads she hears and sees. Her "choice would have been Hillary", she said in frustration. "Why didn't she just win?" "What do you think about Obama?", she asked truly wanting to discuss him. "One really good source of who he was, is, and will be is his book The Audacity of Hope." I went on to tell her all that I had learned of him, his upbringing, his efforts to get a good education and his work with people just like us on the south side of Chicago. We shared our ideas, our feelings. Imagine that, two women talking about feelings! Blanca told me repeatedly how glad she was I called and that "you just pushed me over." "I think I might be able to vote for him now." "You've answered a lot of my questions, and it is just so nice to talk to someone and really discuss it!"
Blanca was such a bright moment in my day that our talk is all I can think about this morning as I wake from a not so restful sleep at 3:45AM. Blanca, I heard you. I feel your worries. I understand the anxiety that voting, one way or the other, might actually change the outcome of this election and Americas future. Your concerns are my concerns. Your child is precious to you as my children are precious to me. Your hard work is as important to you as my hard work is to me. In the near future, if you can't afford health care, chances are I won't be able to either. If my son goes off to war, there's a chance yours will too.We're both exhausted from worry, from long hard days on the job to earn enough just to get by and to keep our homes, to keep our children safe and sound. We're not so different. You expressed great surprise when I talked about writing to Senator Lautenberg and Menendez and how they hear from me constantly. Maybe now you'll write too. Feelings. They really do matter.
Last night I may have helped to change a Republican vote to a Democratic vote. More than that, I talked to a good woman, a caring American. We really connected. How often I've needed that and not had it. It was a good day. May all OUR days be better!
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