Midmorning. We entered the parking lot at the church where we vote. We could not believe our eyes. So many cars. Wonderful turnout. We smiled.
We live in a rural area, so this does not fit with what we know. Usually, everything is brief. Briefly we enter the building, briefly we vote. Everything takes less than 10 or 15 minutes.
Today we walked through the doors and found more than 25 voters, all seated in folding chairs, waiting. Not what I’d counted on. I had a list of things waiting for me at home—a cabin to clean, food to prepare. Overnight guest coming.
I wrote my name for the poll worker and showed I.D.
Immediately, the man in front of me turned and happily showed me a photo on his camera of his Great Dane taking down a deer. I looked at the man who was obviously proud of his dog’s accomplishment. One day I’ll figure out what to do with that.
No one seemed to be brooding over the long line, but two or three (myself included) were asking how did this happen? What’s the problem? What does this mean?
A volunteer worker answered, “We ran out of paper ballots early this morning. No more. All districts are out of paper ballots. Only one voting machine. It’ll take a while.”
Stunned, I repeated her words to myself. It’ll take a while.
I sat down with my husband Jimmy, who started dialoguing with a couple, though neither of us knew them. That’s how it is in rural America. We talk to anybody, everybody. Both had been in the deer woods, both dressed in camo. For some reason, the man started telling my husband how to identify a doe from a buck, this time of year, when the deer is a good distance away.
I responded, “I had no idea....”
The man’s wife went on to tell a story about a meteorite that came over their house and hit their hillside. She added, “We’ve been looking for the hole like gold diggers ever since.”
“How do you look for it?” I was curious.
“Big hole or a sink spot in the earth, a burnt spot.”
Handshakes and introductions. My husband continued to listen and talk, but I excused myself and walked to the kitchen to make coffee.
This is my church. I know where most things are in the kitchen. I can’t do anything about dogs, deer, or meteorites, but I can make coffee. It hit me: I’m turning into a woman like Martha who only wanted to take care of people in Jesus’ day. The thought did not slow me down. And this is far easier than surviving a flood, an ice storm, fires. I have no reason to complain.
I asked my husband if he’d time someone who was voting, so we’d know how long it takes.
The only thing I had power over was inside my head. I figured I could make a little plan if I knew how long it would take each person voting.
Just then my neighbor who loves our dogs walked in. I watched the shock grow on her face. The same look I’d worn minutes ago. She joined us. I don’t know if I wanted to comfort her or if she was a comfort.
I heard the coffee pot gasp. Now to offer coffee and left-over Halloween candy.
A good friend ambled in with her husband and son. Both men, presently looking for jobs. Smart, but laid-off.
Outside, we have autumn trees. Abundance of color. Inside, men are dressed like trees, but that fact changes little about needs. We all need prayers. And that’s another thing I can do: make coffee and pray.
I pray for America and its brokenness, for me to vote according to God’s will, for those who are struggling with sickness, for the guest coming to retreat.
Our friends. They joined our circle. It reminded me of party times long ago. Suddenly, the voting machine seemed far away. Something had clicked in me. It’ll be okay, no matter what happens. I took a deep breath. Glad to be a helper and not in charge of this world.
Someone noticed the clock was an hour fast. Jimmy looked up, stood up, changed it. That gave me another hour!
We visited, drank coffee, ate chocolate, and I decided I’d flow with whatever happened.
An hour and half after entering the building, I heard my name called to come to the voting machine. The volunteer apologized for the wait and said, “This machine has not been used in 14 years, and the other machine is broke down.” Then he was all business and introduced me to the process I’d follow.
Not one person had mentioned politics in the building, but now I was to focus on who or what I was voting For or Against. I voted and sighed. My little part was done.
I picked up my jacket, and my eyes fell on an empty but broken folding chair. A poll worker had been sitting in it. She must have thought her rear-end was broken. I showed my husband the chair after he’d voted. (He is the chair-repairman in our church. People, not thinking, stand in the chairs to fix a light or turn on/off a fan, which breaks chair bottoms.) The “Martha” part came out in both of us. We substituted other chairs and set the broken ones aside.
At last, we said goodbye to friends. Without having to speak of it, I longed for wholeness, home, time to clean and plan a meal. I especially longed for the sun, giver of kindness and charm (like my Jimmy), to take its time about rushing over the ridge.
And again, I reminded myself, It’s okay, no matter what. God’s in charge.
P.S. My gratitude to those who connect with this blog and share thoughts.