I just got back home from voting. This feels more satisfying than hours at the gym, a million work deadlines completed, winning the lottery--not that I've ever won the lottery but, yes, I would trade lots of money for the right to exercise my voice as I did today. I believe this is the most important election of my lifetime thusfar. I couldn't sleep last night, afraid I would wake up late and miss the calm before the predicted storm of pre-work voters showing up in droves at the high school down the block.
And the gym was packed, even at 6:30AM. Lines moved quickly, though, and I had to wait only a few minutes. I ran into my neighbor, the one who taped a nasty note to my front door a few years ago about my kitchen garbage (don't ask), and who never makes eye contact in the elevator. But today she gave me a big smile and made sure I found the right place to sign in. (This reminded me of a story I just heard from a friend about his childhood next-door neighbor, with whom his father had an eternal feud. Every year after Selihot they opened the gate between their backyards, and kept it that way until the end of Hoshanah Rabbah, at which time they closed the gate and resumed not talking to each other for another 12 months.)
I looked at the names on the column in the voting booth for a very long moment before slowly and deliberately pulling each lever, one by one. I wanted to sear the image of that top name in my mind's eye so it would remain for the rest of my life, maybe to somehow convey the amazing sight to the souls of those family and friends long gone who never would have imagined such a thing. I thought of my mother, in particular, who as a child endured the pain of prejudice and bigotry as one of the few Jews in her town (yes, in Queens). And who grew up to have friends of all colors, backgrounds, and beliefs, and taught me that no one person can ever be better than another, and we can all achieve whatever we set our minds to. My mother would have been so proud to vote for a man who lived what she dreamed.
Although I'm a stauch supporter of the separation of church and state, I followed my rabbi's suggestion and said a prayer before I pulled those levers:
Baruch ata Adonai, elohainu melech ha-olam, sheheheyanu v'kee-y'manu v'hee-gee-anu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, who has kept us in life, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.
May the coming years sustain us far beyond simple survival and trying to escape the worst, as has become an unfortunate status quo, and instead bring an abundance of joy, prosperity, and peace to this country, and to the entire world.