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Knock, Knock

Well, ’tis the season once again. Three times in one week, we’ve had a knock at the door from canvassers. It’s been kind of quiet at the front door for the last year-and-a-half, other than the odd package arriving, so the sudden “deluge” surprised me.

Two of the door knockers were looking for donations for their organizations. The other was from a political party regarding the upcoming Federal election. As soon as I answered the door the first time, I thought “Doh! Should have hidden in the bathroom.” Instead I was stuck there listening to the spiel.

I try to look polite and patient, but I’m sure they can see the “Oh my lord, can we get this over with?” haze in my eyes. I was a canvasser for a political party many, many years ago so I know that disengaged look well.

As soon as you open the door and realize who’s in front of you, there’s a momentary panic. What do I do? How do I end this? A couple of times in past when I’ve been in a particularly bad state, I’ve just cut a canvasser off with a quick “Not interested,” and closed the door. But then I feel bad.

Most of the time, I let them finish their pitch and, as politely as I can, tell them I’d rather not contribute.

Occasionally, I actually do hide in the bathroom.

Two of the canvassers last week were young women, intelligent, well spoken and sincere. They had their speeches down pat from having to repeat it many times. But as soon as I see one of those electronic credit card units in their hands, I know they’re trying to lock me into a lifetime of financial commitment to their cause.

I mean, they would be most happy if we all pledged monthly donations for the rest of eternity to the organizations they are so passionate about. I get that.

The reality is that none of us can support absolutely every cause and every emergency that comes up. Well, maybe 1% can.

I made the decision years ago to pick the organizations I wanted to support, and then set up a regular financial contribution to them. And when I have my wits about me, I remember to tell the canvassers that before things progress too much. But I’m out of practice.

I also feel for political party canvassers, especially now. It’s always been difficult to be out there knocking on the doors of people who clearly can’t stand your politics. But these days, there’s even more nastiness out there than usual, and an election just gives some people another excuse to bicker, bellow and blame.

I’m trying to make myself remember that first part of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s motto: be kind.

Oh, and speaking of the election, here’s one for you:

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Gladys.

Gladys who?

Gladys Almostover.

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Hot Pot Politics

I don’t think I could handle being a politician. In fact, I’d guess that the majority of us couldn’t handle it. And wouldn’t want to.

All you have to do is peruse the “letters to the editor” page in any paper, or scroll through Twitter and news feeds, and you immediately see why. Many people despise politicians, and no matter what mayors or premiers or prime ministers try to do, somebody’s going to be in a rage.

These days, that vitriol seems even more intense. Some of it, I’m sure, is because we are living through an exceptionally stressful time and leaders of any sort are an easy target for that pent up frustration.

Some of it, though, is because these days it seems we have been given permission to be hateful.

Those of us who live here in Victoria, the provincial capital, are pretty close to the political action when it fires up. Many of my students and friends over the years have been government employees in one capacity or another, so I’ve heard lots of stories, good and bad, about the people who run our government.

I became involved in a campaign many years ago when someone talked me into volunteering for a political party during a provincial election. I was pretty young and naïve, and I thought it would be kind of exciting. Well, it certainly was an eye opener.

One of my first jobs was canvassing, which meant going to a designated area within the riding and knocking on every door in the neighbourhood. A lot of volunteers didn’t like canvassing, for reasons I was about to find out. But I was game.

To be fair, many people whose doorbells I rang were polite and took the leaflet I handed them with a smile. But there were others who called me every name in the book, some even slamming the door in my face. It was humiliating. And here I was, thinking I was doing something positive and helpful.

I was supposed to canvass the whole area three times during the course of the campaign, but I think I probably only managed one cycle. That was enough for me.

I also worked the telephones at campaign headquarters. One day, our candidate walked in to meet with all of the office workers and volunteers. He made the time to come up and sit by my desk, chit chat a little, and thank me for volunteering. I immediately liked him and was suddenly filled with that sense of purpose I’d been seeking. Our little chat was the best thing about the whole campaign for me.

Years later, that candidate became the Premier of B.C.

There are many good people out there who truly want to make a difference in their community, province or country. They work hard and they put in long hours, often against all odds, to effect change. They are the ones who are passionate about their work, who try to reach across the aisle and find compromise. They’re the ones who will sit down at the desk of a lowly campaign worker and sincerely thank them for their efforts.

But as sincere and as passionate as these people might be, even if they succeed at getting something done, sometimes they just can’t win. Somebody’s always going to be seething.

Maybe we should consider being a little kinder to them. We can certainly disagree, but don’t make it personal.

Oh, I know there are the bad apples too: those with a sense of entitlement who care more about themselves and their rise to the top than they do their constituents. But that will always be true, in any career.

What I really hope for is that there will be enough younger people interested in fulfilling those important rolls in the future, because we really do need them. Experience is one thing. A fresh, new outlook is another. And hopefully, they’ll have a thicker skin than I did when they go out on their first round of canvassing.

The only constituents I have to deal with these days are the members of my household. We disagree on a lot of things sometimes, but when it comes to Sunday dinner, this is an autocracy. I hold all the power.