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April 19, 2023

Why Most People Don’t Volunteer: The Flipside

It was a mild October afternoon in the gilded City of Boulder, Colorado. I was canvassing to get now-Governor Jared Polis on the ballot. I’d been volunteering my afternoons in the midst of the most deleterious Administration in life, that of Captain Lunatic. More than anything, I wanted to help a Democrat become our next governor.
There I stood in front of Starbucks, clipboard in hand. Passersby dashed in and out through the doors, lattes and cell phones in hand.
Excuse me, I gently stepped in front of the middle-aged man, Do you have a moment to help get Jared Polis on the ballot this November?
Sorry, he said without breaking his stride, Not a fan.
So many people were aggrieved and suffering under the new wave of monied Republicans. I was desperate to find balance among the dwindling middle-class.
Are you happy with the way things are? Wouldn’t you like to see things get better?
I’m more than happy with my portfolio, he turned, gleaming. My stocks have never performed better.
He strode off, climbing into his Land Rover. I walked over to King Soopers to try my luck. Before long, a disheveled and dirty man came walking up in my direction.
Howdy, I smiled, Do you have a moment to help Jared Polis get on the ballot?
Sorry, nope, I don’t vote, he quipped, and walked through the revolving doors.
My afternoon went thusly. There were a few willing to offer their signatures on my clipboard, but I was met with more Sorry, don’t like what he’s doing with oil and gas in Colorado, responses. Or like the man with the hefty stock portfolio, felt the economy was clipping just dandy without any fair-minded interjection to help others less fortunate. That the trillion-and-a-half dollar tax cut to help even more billionaires hang onto their wealth had just passed, was going unnoticed in the daily deluge.
I decided to tool over to 29th Street Crossing, and try my luck in front of the Apple and Sephora stores.
Excuse me, I smiled at the older gentleman walking into the Apple Store, Do you have a moment for Jared Polis?
He stopped, letting the door slam, turned to me and quipped,
What are you, some snowflake liberal spending all of her time volunteering for political candidates? Why aren’t you out working a real job like the rest of Americans?
My hands began to tremble. I wanted to bash him upside the head with my clipboard. Instead, I stepped forward, took a deep breath, and smiled.
I”m volunteering my afternoons to help democracy. How about you? It’s 2:00 on a Tuesday. Why aren’t you at YOUR job?
I’m retired, he defended quickly. I spend my days target shooting on Sugarloaf Mountain. Don’t have to work anymore.
Good for you, I continued. But how about giving back some of your time to a cause you believe in, then?
Guns, he said, I”m tired of you snowflake liberals trying to twist the truth around our guns. You all need to be working, not out here spending your time harassing retirees for signatures on your lilywhite ballots…
He went on. And the more he did, the more personal the insults became. Clearly, I was in his line of fire. Just then, a security guard came strolling by.
Hey! My friend shouted. Hey! You need to get this Godd*!m snowflake liberal the He*”! Out of here! She’s harassing people by asking for signatures on a ballot for a candidate!
The security guard turned in my direction. I explained that I had permission from Polis’ headquarters to come out and canvas, that I had had training, and was simply asking for signatures.
You can’t be here, he said, we don’t allow for such things here.
But his headquarters told me where I could go —
YOU CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HE(!#!, shouted my retired friend, GET HER OUT OF HERE!
I raised my hand, smiled and said, No problem, I’ll go elsewhere, and walked down the street. After a stint in front of Starbucks, I climbed back in my car, thirty-nine signatures on my clipboard, and reported back to HQ.
How’d it go? The staff supervisor inquired.
Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon in Boulder, I said, maybe I’ll try in front of McGuckins on Friday…
I drove home that afternoon, thinking about my mountain neighbor a few miles down the Canyon, and wondered if he was loading his rifle for target shooting when he returned home from the Apple Store. The next day, I contacted my local animal shelter, to start the process of applying to volunteer and walk a few homeless dogs.
At least they wouldn’t be insulting my efforts, or unleashing their pent-up frustration over the state of our nation on a middle-aged woman with a clipboard, with all the hope for democracy and balance and correspondingly, a few less guns in our nation, large in her heart.
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