I’m resting easier now that my in-person vote is cast — although I’m still a little nervous. I’ve voted in every presidential election since 1960 except for 1964 when I was studying in Scotland. At age 82, I am entitled to vote absentee, but with all the talk about mail-in ballots being disqualified for one reason or another, I didn’t want to risk it — my handwriting has worsened considerably since I signed my driver’s license and voter registration card.
On the first Thursday of early voting Carole and I went to the sub-courthouse to cast our ballots, thinking the lines would certainly be shorter by then. Of course, they weren’t. But when we happened to find an empty parking place, we decided to give it a try, despite our age and my use of a cane to shore up my weak legs and poor balance.
We had been in line for about forty-five minutes and were almost in sight of the front door of the courthouse, when a sheriff’s deputy came by. He stopped and looked over me and my cane. My first thought was “what have I done wrong?” — half expecting him to chide me for not voting absentee. But instead he came over and politely instructed Carole and me to follow him. And he took us inside to the head of the line and in ten minutes we had voted and had the sticker to prove it — although I did have some guilt about going ahead of all the other waiting voters.
Our experience in the voting line and the deputy’s kindness reminded me of an incident in the life of Albert Schweitzer, one of my spiritual heroes. Schweitzer, who was a brilliant theologian, musician, and doctor, spent the better part of his life in the heart of darkest Africa caring for the medical and spiritual needs the natives there.
In Schweitzer’s memoir, “Out of My Life and Thought,” he recalled an act of kindness that altered his way of doing life:
At the station at Tarascon we had to wait for the arrival of our train in a distant shed. My wife and I, heavily laden with baggage, could hardy get along over the ballast between the tracks. Thereupon a poor cripple whom I had treated in the camp came forward to help us. He had no baggage because he possessed nothing, and I was much moved by his offer, which I accepted. While we walked along together in the scorching sun, I vowed to myself that in memory of him I would in future always keep a lookout at stations for heavily laden people and help them. And this vow I have kept. (On one occasion, however, my offer made me suspected of thievish intentions.)
In the same way, I hope that my memory of that officer’s kindness to us in the voting line will make me more patient and sensitive to the needs of those I encounter in those lines we wait in everyday - at the grocery store, the drug store, the post office, and in traffic. First and last are often reversed, Jesus said, in God’s line. Simple acts of kindness are more important than our place in line!
Lord, thank you for all the kindness we’ve been shown. Help us to pass it on. Amen.
John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.