Editor’s Note: Over the last several weeks, the town teams of NJ 11th for Change have been walking their neighborhoods door-to-door, spreading the word that there's congressional election primary coming up soon, and talking to neighbors about the importance of voting. Guest author and NJ 11th for Change Field Director Judy Kelly writes about what going out to canvass means to her.
I’ll admit it. I did not go out and canvass for Hillary Clinton. I didn’t go out for Phil Murphy. I made excuses: Too busy. Too tired. Too many things to do. I felt bad about these decisions, but never bad enough to push beyond my own limitations. Nothing got me to do it.
Then the calendar turned to 2018. As I sat here in January, I took a hard look at what I’d done to date. Sure, I could console myself that I was contributing. I mean, I helped with events, I called my representatives, I posted on Facebook and complained to my like-minded friends. In the end though, I knew it wasn’t enough. I knew I wasn’t keeping the promises I made following Election 2016.
The day after the 2016 election, I was a mess. I felt like someone died. I wanted to scream and yell and throw things against the wall. I woke up that November morning to my 5-year-old daughter bouncing on her toes at the side of my bed, asking: “Did Hillry Clinnon win? Is she the new president?”
I cried. I looked my daughter in the eye and promised right there I would do everything I could to make sure she had the future, the country, the world she deserved. Promise. Everything.
As 2018 started, I had to face the fact I'd broken that promise.
One recent Sunday, I went out canvassing for the first time. I was nervous. I was intimidated. What if people were mean? What if I looked stupid? What if? What if? What if?
What if, indeed? Well, people weren’t mean. I encountered two people who didn’t want to talk: a harried new mom who was clearly busy with kids yelling in the background, and an equally harried-looking man tying up some bushes in the front of his house. I don’t think it was because of me in either case.
Everyone else we met was happy to see us. They took the info, they invited us in, they wanted to talk. It was rewarding. We met with a woman who talked to us about unfair foreclosure laws as she fought back tears. She looked relieved to have someone to talk to. She looked thankful. We met dogs, checked out spring flowers just blooming -- and 90% of the people we spoke to thanked us for coming to their homes.
Getting ready to go out that Sunday morning, I knew I needed to wear something to remind me of what I was trying to accomplish and why. I opted for a necklace my daughter gave me. She bought it at the Holiday Fair at her school and was so proud to give it to me. It’s a heart that says “mom” with pink and blue gems. My daughter thinks it’s beautiful and so do I.
We all can make excuses. There’s always another job that has to get done, always another priority. When I really look at my priorities, my daughter tops the list every time. I am doing this for her.
Fellow NJ11th-ers, now is the time to find your motivation! Now is the time to fulfill those promises you made to yourself, your families and your country. Pick up your own talisman and wrap yourself in the warm knowledge that you are doing something necessary and valued. After the first door, it isn’t scary. I promise, someone from NJ 11th will hold your hand and do it with you.
And this time, I’m not breaking promises.
Judy Kelly lives in Roseland.
(This guest column reflects the author’s thoughts and opinions, and does not constitute any official position of NJ 11th For Change.)