by Rev. Shelley Smith
This month’s theme was challenging for this spirit writer…how do our spirits interact with something very political like an election? As I pondered this, I remembered an experience I had during my time as a ministry student working at the Kitchener shelter for homeless women and children back in 2000. The manager at the time was passionate about activism and politics. She firmly believed that the residents of the shelter had the right to vote in the election. Every effort was made to empower the residents to educate themselves about the candidates and to go to the local voting station on election day.
I was asked to accompany the residents to the local polling booth. Four women gathered in the shelter lobby, each had a signed letter from the shelter stating that this was their residence. Identification and proof of residence are requirements to receive a ballot. I must admit, sheepishly, that I had not taken an interest in politics, or voting for that matter, so this was a learning experience for me as well.
As we stood in line I became aware that the women were very anxious, apprehensive and excited since this was a new experience for them. The first woman gave her paper to the polling coordinator and was immediately told that the letter was unacceptable. I remember the women’s reactions: dejection, anger, defeat. They turned and looked at me and said, “See—we knew we wouldn’t be able to vote.” My response was, “Don’t move, we aren’t leaving until you vote.”
I quickly made a call to the director of the shelter and had her speak directly to the onsite manager at the polling station. After what seemed like hours, the manager returned to us and explained to the intake coordinator that the letters were valid and our shelter residents should be given their ballots.
I share this story because from that day forward I have never missed voting in an election. I learned a lot about myself from that experience. I learned that social justice is important—not only to me but also, and especially, to those who are marginalized in society. I learned that voting in elections is critically important and that it’s a privilege in our democracy that people in other parts of the world would love to have.
It is our responsibility as adults to model civic involvement for future generations. Voter turnout in Canada is very low which means that only a small percentage are deciding the fate of our municipality and province. So, to the people of Crown Point: please exercise your civic duty and vote on election day. Take this time to listen to the candidates and what they are saying. Read their pamphlets, go to speaking engagements, read their party’s platform.
Ask questions, then discern. What are the issues that are closest to your heart? What are the issues important to your community and city? Which candidate would best represent your voice at Queen’s Park? Make a conscious, deliberate decision. Then vote. No matter what the outcome, be proud—your vote acknowledges and celebrates the democratic privileges we have in this amazing country we call Canada.
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