I am at my desk for a few moments. I will walk back down to our “big room” and see how I can continue to offer hospitality to voters. I have been here making coffee since 6:30 a.m. Several of our folks have come to help – Nathan, LaRae, Eloise, Denise, Ginny and others will come later. Pots of coffee, pitchers of water and chairs for long lines. We want people to want to vote and make them feel at home.
Checking messages and mail I receive a call from a friend. We discuss his new grandchild and the election. He hopes the election goes a certain way and we discuss a variety of possible implications. Finally, I conclude while we should be involved in the political process our work as people of God transcends the political. Still thinking about that conversation I discover my friend Mark Riddle tagged me in one of his Facebook notes and posted on his blog. I am reposting his piece here for it illustrates. For we who are citizens of the Kingdom of God, voting is NOT the highest form of citizenship. Read, weep, pray and hope.
Itâ??s election day in the US and where I live in the southern Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, that means itâ??s likely that McCain will have a big turn out. While Pam was taking my 5th grader to school with a few other classmates early for their 5th grade choir, the conversation was around the elementary schoolâ?? mock election. â??McCain will win,â?said one student. â??No one will vote for Obama.â? Another 10 year old chimed in. â??There are a couple kids who will vote for Obama, they are always talking about him.â? The first kid responded. â??Yeah, but theyâ??re weird.â?
Nice. My wife tells me this story when she gets home in the kitchen as my 7 year old comes into the room and tells us heâ??s voting for Obama. Interesting. Itâ??s one of those moments filled with temptations as a parent. Moments to tell you child, to be quiet about who they are voting for, so they wonâ??t get picked on. And then reality comes crashing in, that this would be the absolute worst thing to tell him. To hide what you believe in because it might not be popular. This isnâ??t what I want for my kids.
Then later, Pam and I have arranged to do tag-team vote because my 3 year old daughter isnâ??t in school. Iâ??ve voted and sitting in the minivan with Mikayla, whoâ??s strapped in her carseat, still in her nightgown. Pam is inside waiting in line. Iâ??m spending my time reading and talking with Mikayla, when I notice an elderly man in my passanger side rearview mirror. Heâ??s sitting in the grass with his legs draped over the tall curb and heâ??s breathing heavy. Heart-attack heavy. Thereâ??s a small woman in her 40â??s attending to him.
At this moment Iâ??m playing catch up. Questions are racing. Do these people know each other? Is he just relaxing and waiting for a friend who is voting inside? I begin to look for details. I see people walking by, within feet of the two of them. They donâ??t stop. They keep walking in to vote. I decide Iâ??m getting out to check on them, but Mikaylaâ??s in her PJâ??s. So I look again. The woman has left the man and is walking to her car.
Is everything ok now? Does she think heâ??s okay to be left alone?
I sit back down in the car, but continue to watch the man. How heâ??s breathing, the look on his face. Something was still not right. I could tell, even from the distance I was sitting. The woman returned and took out a bag with a blood pressure gauge. She was a nurse and she was getting his vitals. This made me feel better, but I felt there was a need for more help and I start counting people walking by.
Itâ??s a busy polling place. No less than 75 people walked by to vote, or to leave. Within feet of an elderly man getting his vitals taken there on the curb. I can wait no more. I tell Mikayla to sit tight, and lock the doors behind me (Iâ??m only walking 30 feet to where the man is) and I ask, â??Is everything okay?â?
The old man tells me his story. He says he was walking into vote when he got dizzy and faint, struggling to keep his feet underhim, he fell over the curb in the grass. The nurse said, his vitals were settling down. Together we stood him up. He needed assistance for a moment. The nurse took him into vote.
I sat back down for a moment in awe of the moment. I canâ??t really describe what I felt at that point. There was a mix of anger, sadness, frustration and hope. It occurred to me.
Voting is the lowest form of citizenship a person can actually participate in. Voting, for all the commercials telling you how you are changing the world with your vote just might make you feel good, but are misleading. The fact is, if all you do today is vote, you have failed the rest of us and you have failed yourself.
How can 75 people walk by an elderly man in distress and do nothing. Nothing except vote. Friends, voting is less important than your involvment.
I donâ??t care who you voted for.
If you voted for Obama, you canâ??t be dependant upon him to change the world to make it want you want it to be. Thatâ??s not engagement. If you are interested in helping the poor through the government, then youâ??d better be doing it yourself. A vote for Obama isnâ??t a vote for change. You helping a elderly man on your way into the polling place is the change you are looking for.
If you voted for McCain, and you donâ??t think that itâ??s the job of government to care for the poor. Then youâ??d better get off your butt and do something. You talk a good game, and I know you had socialism, but you have a poor track record of actually making a difference. No government has kept you from making a difference on this level. So quit crying foul and stop for the elderly man who needs you. For all your talk about not wanting someone else in control of your government, you seem pretty happy just to vote and then complain when things donâ??t go your way. I know you want government to leave you alone. We can tell. You want the rest of us to leave you alone too.
Iâ??m not going to tell you who I voted for, but Iâ??ll say this. We need more citizens in our world and less folks who only want to be voters.
So, if you are a 10 year old voting at the elementary school, or an adult voting at your polling place, remember what it means to be a citizen of the planet. To love your neighbor as yourself.
5 comments on “Voting Is (NOT) the Highest Form of Citizenship”
Wow – what an excellent post. Thanks, Mark and Todd, for reminding us of this.
Thanks for the comment. I have re-read Mark’s words a couple of time and it still saddens and challenges me.
i can’t help thinking it’s awesome that there has been such long lines all over… people taking a greater interest in public issues is always a good thing
Nice website. I agree. It is very good for people to engage public issues. And, even better when we personally become involved with people in public space beyond just voting.
How true, not what we say as when we vote but what is in our hearts, how we act, is that not what Jesus told us, the story of the Good Samaritan was all about how we act not what we think we are or what we say. Thank You.