Last week, as I was out canvassing in Chesterfield County, I was happy to see a very kind and familiar face respond to my door knock. Kimberly, a friend and colleague from work, embraced me as soon as she opened the door and shared her excitement about the campaign. Although I don’t typically receive such an enthusiastic reception, most of my conversations at the doors these past few months have been overwhelmingly reaffirming and supportive. Voters share their concerns and give me glimpses into the many distinct parts of our district’s community. The first time that I knocked doors for a candidate, it was 2007, and I was canvassing for a young Barack Obama who had electrified the audience at the 2004 Democratic convention but who was still a relatively new player on the national political stage. New to political canvassing myself, I was intimidated by the prospect of talking to voters I did not know, about a candidate who was still largely unfamiliar to me.
Knocking doors now as a candidate myself, the experience is remarkably different. Not only has the process become less intimidating, it is actually the best part of my campaign experience. With each door knocked and opened, I gain insights into the lives of the folks in our community. Each encounter is unique, personal, and wonderfully engaging. Some share how proud they are of their neighborhood community; others talk about their concerns with their children’s schools; and many speak about their anxieties about our national politics.
Each door opened, each conversation held, each hand shaken is a step towards that profound and very human connection that is often betrayed by our modern, digital, and frequently isolated lives. I am gratified by the kindness of strangers who thank me for knocking on their doors and for speaking with them. I am humbled by those who invite me inside, to escape the summer heat for a few minutes in the cool space of their hallways or living rooms, who offer me cold water in that ageless gesture of welcome to the stranger, and who unburden bits of their concerns as we talk. As I leave their doors, many caution me to “be safe out there.” I thank them for their concern, knowing that it is heartfelt and sincere.
Too often in our lives, we pass by closed doors, afraid to glimpse into each other’s lives, too timid to connect, too unwilling to encroach into personal spaces. These past few months have taught me that most of our porches are welcoming, few of us remain strangers for too long, and most doors open with generous ease once they are knocked.