November 13, 2020

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Opportunity to make my voice count well worth the wait

Kimberly PohoveyI attempted to vote early on three separate occasions, only to be deterred each time by the long lines and scarcity of parking. Plan B was taking my chances voting on Election Day, hoping for a shorter wait time. I arrive at my normal assigned polling site at 6 a.m. excited to cast my ballot and, hopefully, get in and out and on to work on time.

I park my car and start walking toward the line I saw forming just outside the building and across the front walkway. With each corner I round, the line continues to lengthen. I walk and walk, then walk some more until I finally reach the line’s end. I surmise I am in for a two- or three-hour wait.

It is 6 a.m. It is still dark outside. It is 37 degrees. I jam my cold hands in my pockets and steel myself for a long, chilly wait. I tell myself I can and will do this. Voting is not only a right, it’s a privilege—one that many of our fellow humans do not enjoy.

Buoyed by my internal pep talk, I look toward the horizon to see the gorgeous hues of a pre-dawn sky starting to lighten. I generally don’t leave for work as early as 6 a.m. so I note this miracle I would otherwise miss. I notice other things as well. I watch folks walk past me to take their place at the end of the line. I realize this line is a representation of society—young, old, couples, singles, families, all different genders, races and sizes. Despite their obvious physical differences, I wonder what motivates them to vote. Is the gentleman ahead of me most concerned about the economy? Is the young mother with a small child troubled by unemployment? Do the older couple, who are snuggled together, worry about health care?

As I ponder their motivations, I notice the crowd, albeit cold, is friendly. Folks wave when they recognized neighbors and total strangers initiate conversations. It strikes me that this line that undoubtedly contains a plethora of differing opinions does not in the least resemble the polarized rhetoric we have seen in the news.

At 7 a.m., I spy a woman exiting from one of the side doors of the building. She is pushing a cart with two large containers of coffee and begins offering her liquid warmth to the cold crowd. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I too feel a jolt of warmth just observing her gesture. Over the next hour, multiple people from the church and a voting advocacy group offer bottles of water, granola bars, cookies and even Doritos. Each time, I am taken by the acts of kindness. I think to myself, this line isn’t a divided America. This is America—a nation that is more than capable of huddling together for a common cause, being civil and generous to one another.

Nearing 8 a.m., just as I approach the building entrance, I look up to see the flag hoisted high in the air. Tears form in my eyes. The emotion of this reminder that I live in a free country wells up inside me. The cold is trivial compared to the sacrifices countless men and women have made so that I could stand in this line and cast my vote.

A few minutes past 8 a.m., I enter into the merciful warmth of the building. The line coils up and around the entire lobby laying out yet another hour’s wait. I notice smiles. I witness laughing. I see folks perk up as they near the hallowed room full of voting machines. Finally, at

9 a.m., I step up to a poll worker who greets me with an eager smile and hands me a coveted ballot. I’ve arrived at my own little place in history.

During my three-hour tour, I learn that there is humanity in a line. It teaches me that while folks in my line may not hold the same opinion as I, we can all coexist and heck, even be kind to one another. It teaches me that sometimes miracles happen while we wait—if we take the time to appreciate them. And finally, I learn that the opportunity to make my voice count is well worth the wait.
 

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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