Although that moment has slipped from my memory
I will never forget the first time I voted in Virginia.
My family and I had come down from upstate New York
a few months before this. There had been many changes.
But I will never forget that election day.
First of all, I discovered that our voting place
was a small, white building
in the country.
As I parked my car that morning I looked at the people standing around.
Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford
I swallowed, took a deep breath and opened the door of my Rambler.
Eyes stared at me as I walked towards the door of the shed like building.
Men dressed in overalls and jeans
standing in groups
Some quite old
a few younger.
A scattering of women
I knew none of them.
My eyes scanned the opened doorway where tables were set up.
And I missed the familiarity of my old hometown Owego.
Just vote and get out, I thought to myself.
Nervously I approached a table
and spoke my name to the serious faced woman sitting behind it.
She thumbed through some papers and then nodded
and handed me a paper ballot.
I moved over to the side and found a place to lean.
Jimmy Carter, hmm.
Gerald Ford, hmm.
I marked my ballot, folded it and placed it where indicated.
I glanced around noting a farmer in worn clothes
His bent grey head and trembling hands.
I turned as I saw another elderly couple walk up the step and into the room.
but all voting.
I knew that some of those country folks were not even able to read.
But they were exercising their privilege that day.
I, as a first grade teacher, saw once more my calling that day.
To join this new community and give it all I could.
JFK’s famous words continued to influence me as I began to put down roots
In this new place.
“Ask not what your country can do for you
But what you can do for this country!”
Yes, that was it. I needed to lend a hand here
And give of myself there.
I needed to step into the lives of these people
And make a difference.
Well, it’s been many years since that day.
Today I voted in a nearby church gymnasium.
Saw many familiar faces. Spoke a word of greeting here and there.
We stood side by side
as we live day after day.
Freely we cast our vote
and now freely we will live our lives
all doing what we can for this beloved country of ours.
As a child we sang in school the heart touching song
“God bless America
Land that I love.
Stand beside here and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.”
I sang it from my heart then so many years ago.
I sing it from my heart again today with a longing and a dee