By: Phillip Heilman
There will be many reasons to remember this Election Day, but one of the things that will stick with me most is the smile of a grandfather.
It was a little after noon on Tuesday, and I’ll admit it: I was getting bored. As one of more than 30 VyStar Credit Union employees to sign up to be a poll worker, my role that morning had been to greet voters as they entered a precinct located in Springfield, just north of downtown Jacksonville. After more than four hours of standing outside, the initial adrenaline rush had worn off, and the smell of fried chicken wafting over from a nearby Popeyes had me dreaming of a three-piece combo — and knowing I wasn’t allowed to leave the precinct grounds to place an order was only making matters worse.
But my afternoon malaise was quickly wiped away when I saw an older gentleman walking toward the precinct with a younger woman by his side. As they got closer, he pointed toward the church doors and reminded her to let everyone know that she was a first-time voter. As she went inside to choose the candidates and amendments she supported, he sat on the curb and waited.
Given that neither of us had much to do for the next few minutes, I figured there was more than enough time to shoot the breeze. I walked over and asked if that was his granddaughter and whether she was looking forward to voting for the first time. He said yes and when he looked up at me — even with a mask on — it was impossible to miss the smile on his face as he talked about how happy he was that she knew her voice mattered in this world.
The conversation didn’t go on much longer. We talked about the nice weather, as strangers typically do, and I went back to greeting other voters as they came in. When his granddaughter came out, they talked excitedly and walked back from the direction in which they came.
It’s unlikely the grandfather will remember much, if anything, about our conversation. I never bothered to get his name or find out much else about him. But the earnestness in his support of his granddaughter and her enthusiasm to have a say in her future became a much-needed boost for me to make it through the rest of the afternoon.
And it turned out to be a great afternoon. A couple of hours later, I was reassigned to work one of the machines that takes in a voter’s information and helps them get a ballot. While doing that, I had more of an opportunity to talk with voters and other poll workers — many of whom I had never met despite living in the same neighborhood for several years. Considering how infrequently any of us have had the opportunity to do something like that in 2020, it ended up being a few hours well-spent.
I hope the other VyStar employees who signed up to be poll workers across Duval County came away with a similar sense of fulfillment, and those who did not get to volunteer this election will strongly consider it in the future. It’s a great chance to learn about the inner workings of the voting process and meet people from all different backgrounds.
And it’s an opportunity to live out our mindset of doing good. We talk about that all the time at VyStar. Little did I know just how much my soul could use it.
The information in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. VyStar Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.