The idealism I saw in those who came to cast their ballot at the polls more than made up the poor behavior of the few people I described in my last post. The lines were long but people were patient with us and considerate to each other. We tried to serve the people quickly and keep the line moving. Yet as fast as we worked, we still connected with people as we assisted them in exercising their right to vote.
Many were exhilarated as they considered that they were part of changing the course in history. They took care to fill out the ballot correctly, asking questions to make sure they did it right.
Some were voting for the first time and their parents took pictures of them at the entrance, recognizing this as a rite of passage.
One young man was quite happy to be voting for the first time.
“This is really important, isn’t it?” he said to me.
“The older I get,” I said, “the more convinced I am that our vote can change the world.”
“Wow,” he said, drawing the word out. I was very tired but I could still appreciate how excited he was.
People often thanked us for working at the polls. Several times, people reached out and shook my hand, saying, “Thank you for your service, sir.”
Many veterans voted. One man wore a cap showing that he had served in the Korean War and I commented on it, saying that I did not meet many of them. We visited a bit while I was on break, and I found out he was a writer, publishing books on what some call “The Forgotten War.” I shook his hand, saying, “Thank you for your service, sir.”
Another man had a badge in his wallet, which I saw when he searched for his ID. I asked about it and he said he was retired Chicago PD where he had served for over thirty years. I could tell he was proud of the work he’d done and pleased that I had asked about it. As I did with the soldier, I thanked him for his service. It made him smile.
Late on a Sunday as it was getting dark, an elderly gentleman dressed in a dark blue suit, came through the line. I noticed a lapel pin that said “chaplain” on it and I asked if he was clergy. It turns out that he spoke little English and I spoke even less Spanish, but he understood my question and told me he had been a hospital chaplain for over forty years. I shared that I had been a pastor for thirty-five. He was pleased that someone noticed his work. We felt an instant kinship with each other. Both of us had sat at the bedsides of the sick and dying. Both of us had offered comforting words to the grieving and given courage to the fearful. We saw in each other’s eyes the emotional price we had each paid for doing this work.
As he was leaving, we shook hands and thanked each other for serving.