Saturday, January 19, 2008

Canvassing 101

I feel invigorated after this morning’s workout. No, I did not go to the gym or go on a long run... nor did I liberate my lab from behind the fence for a jaunt in the woods - I drove my car to a large urban high school and canvassed (my first time ever!) for Barack Obama. I call it a workout, because after I was done, I felt as good as I do after one of my long, hard hikes on a winter morning.

The "Walk for Obama" gathering was an event to get people like me out to learn how to canvass. This is grassroots at it’s best. I sat in the cafeteria of this large city high school, getting pumped by the mayor’s encouraging words. What we soon discovered was that our Canvassing 101 class consisted only of watching 2 volunteers demonstrating 3 typical scenarios and an overview of the rules and etiquette of canvassing… and then we were deemed A+ students ready to head out on our own - more like Boot Camp 101!

I walked with my daughter and her 3 friends through a neighborhood in the city, which quite honestly, we would have previously only driven through with our doors locked. We had been handed a 3-page list of doors to knock on, mapquest directions to the area and a script to follow in case we got stuck. As the adult in the group, I felt I had to appear confident and show some leadership but honestly, I felt as incompetent and intimidated as the kids.

At first glance, we stood out so badly in that neighborhood. We had walked out of the suburbs and into this broken down neighborhood - and it showed. Hardly anyone answered the door when we knocked. But we knocked on every one that we were assigned. We were a little frustrated -- but soon we started talking to people on the street. We had conversations, asked directions, encouraged people to vote. We even met a woman who knew practically every person on our list. She was so enthusiastic that I thought she was going to take us each by the hand and personally bang on those doors until we got an answer! Instead we got away with some very copious notes on our voter list.

Here was the best outcome of all - these kids would never have walked those streets had it not been for their commitment to help with this campaign. I witnessed their pride after we turned in our completed forms and I commended them for following through. They had accomplished a lot of firsts in a very short time: campaigned for a candidate they hope will be our next President and overcame the trepidation of knocking on doors and talking to strangers. But more important than all that is the other stuff - my mother refers to these things as “the goodies” the extras that you never expect to get. In this case, we bridged a gap between 2 worlds, if even for only a couple of hours, and we realized that as fearful as we were, the people we met were just people like us whose presence in their neighborhood made them feel like they counted - that their vote really was important. For some fleeting moments we all shared something in common.

1 comment:

Don Mills Diva said...

What you are doing is so, so important - I applaud you for getting so involved!