Last weekend, and on through Tuesday’s election, I phone-banked for Biden and Democrats’ Get Out the Vote campaign. For those four days I spent my shifts calling voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Texas encouraging supporters to vote and offering to help them find their polling place or make a voting plan. Most of my calls that evening were to West Philly.
The majority of the people I talked to had already voted or were ready to do so. Quite a few people were irritated about all of the calls they’d received. A few people were republicans, and one of them wasn’t even a prick. Many of the people I spoke to, however, were friendly, grateful, and hopeful for the election.
A lot of the people I reached were excited to share their enthusiasm, including a Philadelphia campaign manager in the thick of it. Some were a little more apprehensive and wanted to talk about how much the election meant to them. A dozen or so even needed my help to find their polling location or some other information. But my very favorite interaction was with Lois.
Lois is 90-years-old, lives in West Philadelphia, and was my second to last call Monday evening, around 8:50 p.m. for her on the east coast. She quickly informed me that she did not need my help, but she was excited to share her plan.
“My neighbors are going to drive me right down the street, first thing in the morning,” she told me proudly. “I’ve got my ballot, I’ve got my bag packed, I’ve got my roller and my folding chair, in case we have to wait in a long line.”
“I’ve been voting since the 1950s and I’ve never missed an election,” she said. “I’m ready to go vote him out of our house.”
I told her that she was an inspiration and must have seen some significant elections in her time. She replied that she remembered voting for Kennedy, and remembered her parents voting for FDR when she was growing up in the Catskills, “across the Hudson River from his home.”
Lois and her church had linked up with churches across seven states and earlier that day they spent something like 6 hours joined in prayer, asking that people would find kindness, let go of their anger, and show up to vote and help heal the country. She told me that it was important that America elect leaders who were good people again.
Lois thanked me for my efforts and I thanked her for her example, before she said goodbye and hung up to go to bed. She had big plans in the morning.
If you have ever wanted to do something easy to support a candidate or cause, beyond donating $15, I endorse phone banking. The bad interactions were brief, and you still get to help everyone by removing them from the list. The good interactions were longer and heartwarming, and sometimes you even get to help some people take action. That’s a bunch of wins.
Early Tuesday morning I saw a video going around of a 90 year old lady in Southwest Philly dancing her way to the polls. I hoped it was Lois, it sure fit the picture in my mind; I later learned her name was Ms. Mildred, so perhaps not. If not, West Philly is apparently full of cool older ladies, in addition to Gritty.
I spent the better part of the next 5 days watching Philadelphia on TV and often thought of Lois. West Philadelphia ended up being perhaps the most important community in the country this week, and they came through. Lois is awesome and she did it. I hope she feels proud and I hope she’s dancing.