Painting the Canvass: A Day in the Life of a Union Canvasser

This post originally appeared at Medium.

I’ve knocked on doors for candidates and campaigns before. Like most of the people in the group I’m with today, I’m not shy and I love connecting with people. But as much as I hate to admit it, I’m still approximately a million times more comfortable engaging on social media than I am knocking on the doors of strangers — even if it’s to ensure the future of working families.

The first door is always most nerve wracking. I double-check the address on my walk list and head up the driveway to the front door, clipboard on my hip, AFL-CIO for Hillary button pinned to my union shirt. My pointer finger presses once firmly on the door bell. I wait with the bright Nevada sun warming my back.

There’s a stillness. After a moment, I realize no one is home so I leave information about the candidates who are supporting working people and head to the next address.

After a few more houses with no one home, I start to relax. I press another doorbell just like before, but this time I hear a rustling inside. My stomach tightens as I wait for an older woman to open it. I smile, explaining why I’m here. I can sense a nervousness in my voice that isn’t usually there. But then that changes. She’s thrilled to speak with me.

I place her thick Long Island accent immediately as she yells for her older sister to come to the door and join us, explaining how they are both fans of Hillary Clinton and Nevada Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto. The sister walks up to the door wearing a bright red pants suit like the one Secretary Clinton wore for the first debate.

"You have your red power suit on, just like Hillary Clinton did in the debate!," I exclaim. She quickly catches my reference and the two women immediately burst into giggles.

"Listen," one of them tells me with certainty, "no one has to tell us to vote. We vote in every election. We always have. But with you folks coming around here like this, it just adds such a great…you know…personal touch."

The other quips, "You know this election has been ridiculous with all the back and forth. It’s so great to have an actual human want to connect with us. What you’re doing is adding such a personal touch. It’s the issues that really matter, not all of this Trump craziness."

They give me high fives, let me know they are rooting for me and wave goodbye from the doorway. As I head down the driveway, I feel the nerves in my stomach dissipate as I stand a bit taller and prouder than before. It’s then I realize that all of these homes are filled with real people who are looking for a human connection.

As the day continues, I begin to notice the details that make this community home to so many: the tiny pink bike with a doll carefully propped up on the seat waiting for a small child to play with it once again, the fluffy cat eyeing me from an upstairs window, the Ranchera music and smell of fresh tortillas that waif from an open window, and manicured garden with matching door wreath so perfect I would have only imagined it to only exist on Pinterest.

I also see the struggles of families trying to get by as I walk their neighborhood: Windows insulated with duct tape to keep out the hot desert air, windows boarded up because a family lost their home to the foreclosure epidemic, flat tires that can’t afford to be fixed and a wheelchair ramp in dire need of repair.

I meet more people as the day goes on: some are as excited as the two sisters from Long Island. Many are eager to learn more information about the down-ballot candidates, while others are firmly supporting candidates I couldn’t fathom inviting to a dinner party, let alone voting for. I wish everyone a great day until my list is complete.

For me, it’s all these details and people that make our democracy work. It’s about a faith in one another, a compassion and understanding for those who live in my community and my country, and my dedication to be able to tell my nieces and nephews that I’ve done everything I could to make a future brighter for everyone.

The next morning my feet ache from all the walking, but as I attach my AFL-CIO for Hillary pin on my union shirt and grab my clipboard, I’m no longer nervous but inspired. And with a proud smile I press the first doorbell on my list.