Monday, November 21, 2016

Why I Write

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago and a man approached me. Last spring he had purchased a copy of my Lessons Learned book.

He wanted to share a story with me. Although he was originally from the community where the book (nonfiction, by the way) takes place, his family had moved away before he was old enough to attend the school. But his sister was, and there-in lies the story.

This sister is now living in a constant care home, suffering from Alzheimer's. She barely recognizes her family, isn't aware of the world, and rarely reacts.

He brought the book to her room on a visit one day. He had read it, finished it within days of first purchasing it, and he found his sister in it in a group photograph. He wanted to show her, hoping for at least one more connection, anything. He would take anything.

He read the pages around the picture to her. Then he showed her that picture. She found herself. She pointed to others in the pictures and spoke their names, every one, even the teacher.

With tears brimming his eyes, this man said to me, "I want to thank you. For five minutes, your book gave me my sister back."

This is why I write.

Catch of the day,


Monday, November 14, 2016

Election Reflection

It's been almost a week, and what a week it's almost been.

I was there. On the front lines. All day Election Day, from before six in the morning to well past eight in the evening by the time all the legal paperwork was signed and submitted. As a precinct judge, my job was to remain impartial and ensure our system of choosing people to represent us continued. At least in our case, Gamewell Precinct Two, the system worked. I witnessed it in action.

As an observer looking for potential characters in my writings, I was not disappointed. I saw an elderly lady dressed to the nines, no doubt specifically for this day. Not appearing was not an option for her. I saw young mothers, babies in their arms, shifting them to their hips to free their hands to ink in their choices. I saw parents steering their children to the table so they could watch them make choices that will affect the world they will grow up in.

We made judgments on voting in several cases, namely voting out of precinct in a provisional ballot. One case in point, a married couple had moved this summer from one end of the county to another. The man took the time to go to the election board and change his residence. His wife assumed it would be done automatically for her. It wasn't. She would have had to drive to the other side of the county, before work even. Wouldn't happen. So together we judges allowed her to fill in a ballot and the chief judge placed it in a provisional envelope. After the election, when the final canvas happens, her ballot will count if her other precinct did not list her as voting there. The system worked.

It worked also for those people too feeble to walk inside. The chief judge went to their cars and with one more layer of paperwork to complete, allowed them to exercise their privilege as Americans and vote. We had reading glasses for those who could not see the ballot clearly. We had a machine specifically for those who were blind.

I handed the ballot (being careful that my fingers didn't point to a specific candidate, per my pre-election training, and yes, we still use paper ballots, but electronic counters) to numerous people who had no idea what to do next. Young and old alike, these people were voting for the first time ever. I could offer no suggestions other than to fill in the dot next to the person you want to vote for. How they voted, I could not hazard a guess. I could also not touch the ballot again. The voter had to insert it in the machine him/herself. That's how the system works.

The only time I was aware of individual's voting preferences was when I heard the machine kick the ballot to a separate direction if that person filled in any write-in candidate selections. Of course, I had no idea who, nor did I care. It was part of the open process. Vote for the candidate you think is the best. At the end of the day, we hand tallied the write-ins. No machine could read their handwriting, believe me. Jesus Christ got three votes. Mickey Mouse didn't get a single vote, contrary to what I would have suspected. For the most part, the write-ins were serious decisions people didn't take lightly, no doubt even those who voted for Jesus.

You know the rest of the story. Some people are pleased, others not. There have been protests. There have been individuals who interpreted the results as a mandate to hate.

I am humbled to have taken a small part in the process. Our democracy depends on its citizens to show up at the local precincts, including those in our small town in the foothills of the Appalachians. That's the way the system works.

Catch of the week,