I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. Ecclesiastes 4:1 (NIV)
On Tuesday, I went to vote a half block from our house. Close enough to walk. The only other voters were a white haired older man, bent over his cane, and his son. The son joked with his dad that it was a miracle the older man voted because he forgot his glasses and his hearing aid. They left as I got my ballot. In our community, we mark our ballots by filling in circles while standing at small tables with a tiny screen around them to protect our privacy. But, we are still in plain view so I was a little nervous with seven poll workers monitoring my progress. I know most of them by name as they are my neighbors, but it just seemed odd to be the only one voting. To fill in the circles, we are given black felt tip markers. All around are big signs that say, fill in each circle completely and if you spoil your ballot to take it to the clerk and get another one. Trying to hurry, I started to mark the wrong name in one race, but only drew a faint line along the top of the circle before I realized my mistake. Surely with the warning to fill in the whole circle that was not enough to spoil my ballot, I reasoned. I finished voting and actually stood there for a minute thinking about whether I should get a new one before taking it to the machine that scans the ballots and counts the votes. I did it anyway and, sure enough, my ballot was rejected. Just that tiny outline was enough to register as two votes so I had to go through the lengthy process of returning my spoiled ballot and getting a new one. I joked with the poll workers that a man who couldn’t hear or see had done a better job of voting than I did. I was quite embarrassed. At least I voted. I have been thinking about that little circle and how it had to be all blank or all complete. The more I volunteer in our community with hungry and hurting people the more I see beyond the rhetoric of policies. People have a name and a story and their needs are being left out of the picture. Who looks out for the single mom? The homeless man? Who gives a helping hand to the migrant worker? Who provides for the child required to wear a school uniform but who only has one shirt to wear five days in a row? Who? Me. But, how do I identify the one who will be the best servant with all the screaming and shouting of today’s political campaigns? It is a dilemma. I want to be a responsible voter. It is so convenient for me as an American when people around the world walk for days to exercise their right to vote. And even when I do it wrong, I get a second chance.