Tuesday, November 04, 2008

All the Way!

This morning, we got up around 5:45, threw on some clothes, and walked a few blocks to our polling place. Instead of early voting, we decided to go on election day to get the full experience. We walked up to the polling location at about 6:00 and took our place in line. The place was buzzing with excitement and hope. The gaggle of elderly African American women in front of us were a riot. They were as giddy as schoolgirls, full of smiles, and teasing one another. One lady offered her friend a baggie stuffed with Cheerios, demanded that she take some, and said "Don't ask me for them later. You won't get none." They all laughed.

On the walk home, we passed a gentleman that I see often in the village during my walks with the dog. Typically, he looks a little unkempt. Mostly, he keeps to himself as he rummages through the trash cans on the sidewalk. This morning, he looked up from digging through the trash. We said our "good mornings" to each other, introduced ourselves, and shook hands. I'm not sure if he has some learning disability or some other disability but his speech is affected and difficult to understand.

"Good morning," he said.

"Good morning."

"You guys smoke? You have a cigarette?"

"Sorry. We don't smoke," I replied, convinced that this was going to be a run-of-the-mill bait-and-switch for money.

"I'm going to the store to buy some cigarettes," he confided.

"Well, you're almost there. It's not too much farther."

"I pick up cans for money," he told us. Then, he asked "You guys vote?"

"Sure did. Just got finished. We've been in line since six o'clock this morning."

"Who'd you vote for?"

We told him and his face lit up.

"He's going all the way! All the waaaaayyyyy! All the waaaaayyyyyy!," he cheered. "He's going to change everything, make things better!," he added with a smile absolutely beaming across his face.

"I certainly hope so. That'd be nice, wouldn't it?," I added. "How about you? Did you vote?"

"I voted early for Obama."

"You vote over in Decatur? You have to stand in line for a long time?"

"Yeah. Had to wait about three hours."

The three of us meandered down the sidewalk toward the store and toward our street. When we turned off, he told us goodbye and kept going. I had to fight back my emotions to stave off welling up on the last block of the walk.

What a statement it is that a guy with some type of disability and likely living with some assistance, who's visibly impoverished and on the societal fringe, not only takes the time to vote but is genuinely concerned about the election and moved to hopefulness and cheer by a candidate.

Although I'm sure that my recollection of it doesn't really capture the power of this simple conversation, I know that it is why I voted. Simply put, it is the promise of America where everyone has a voice. It is the embodiment of hope and of potential. It is the power of a unifying, uplifting message based on hope instead of fear and divisiveness. We're on the edge of something wonderful.

Please, please, please don't let the Dems lose this one.

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