This week I took my 86-year-old mother to the Chisago County Government Center to vote. My mother doesn’t drive and has trouble standing for a long time but she’s as sharp and savvy about her civic rights and responsibilities as anyone I know. We had tried to get her an absentee ballot, but when the ballot didn’t show up in her mailbox, with less than two weeks before the election, we worried it would n’t arrive in time. We opted to go with the other available choice, voting in person at the closest government center when hopefully there wouldn’t be a long line to stand in.
She wanted to look over the ballot before she got there, so I plugged in her address online, and found a sample ballot and printed it out for her. As she ages, she seems to worry more about being rushed usually by someone younger getting impatient with her. When I am with her, I try to match her pace; it is a challenge sometimes to slow down to her speed, and yet I know it is a worthwhile discipline in understanding and love.
She studied the ballot before we got in the car and drove the ten miles from her house to the government center. When we arrived, she said. “Oh, I remember being here with your Dad, before to see a lawyer.” Since we were entering the building and had to place our purses in a tray to be X-rayed, I forgot to ask her why they had come here to see a lawyer. Perhaps too I was distracted worrying that the process of voting early at the government center would be confusing or taxing for my elderly mother.
It wasn’t. My mother went up to the counter and told the woman behind it, “ I am here to vote.” The woman adjusted her glasses, smiled at my mother and handed her a form. “There is a place to sit down to your left, where you can fill this out and once you have, come back and I will hand you your ballot,” she said. My mother sat down, pulled out her I.D. and her reading glasses from her purse and went to work. When she went back to the counter with her form, she was handed her ballot and envelope. The woman told her there was no need to stand in the ballot booth to completely fill in the boxes next to her choices; she can sit back down at the table where she filled out the application. Somehow this government worker seemed to be in tune with my mother’s need to sit.
Then back at the counter, mom was handed a glue stick to seal her ballot. “Thank you for voting.” the woman smiled again. “Would you like a sticker?”
“Might as well,” my mother said peeling the red ‘I Voted’ sticker off the strip, and slapping it on her jacket. We both left the government center feeling in sync with the greater good.
I am clinging to this experience with my mother on this Sunday morning as I sit in church. It has been a hard week of such malice, bombs sent through the mail targeting prominent Democrats, and yet another senseless hate crime leaving 11 people dead for worshipping in their faith. The rancor in this country is mortifying.
When the minister says, “Let us pray and let us vote.” I chuckle to myself but then it hits me. Voting or helping someone to vote, or reminding people to vote can all be acts of love. Helping or reminding people to vote, is believing their hopes and choices matter as much as yours. When you vote, you personally are putting your faith in someone who will do the best they can to lead us all forward.
I realize this is a rosy-colored view of our divided country. No doubt some people fill out their ballot as a means to be against something or someone rather than for something or someone that will make our world kinder for all. Still, I choose to think of getting out the vote, my focus for the next 8 days as a loving act. That will keep me going until the votes are counted and We the People stride onward. So, is there anyone out there who need a ride to the polls?
– Peg Ludtke, Secretary, SCVANOW