I keep walking

November 12

Dear Les,

If you’ve paid any attention from wherever you are, I think you know lots of us are scared, hurting, and rolling up our sleeves, wondering how best to move from grief to action. A demagogue is president-elect. After waking up on election day on the brink of an anxiety attack (with fear of this election’s outcome), I took care of myself all day and didn’t “tune in” to the news until vote tallies were well underway. Even with some hints from friends that things were not going well, I organized my thoughts and posted this beforehand. It’s about moving forward.

As a nondriver and someone who enjoys being outside, I spend a lot of time walking. I walk to buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, rid my dog of some of her tissue-thieving energy, grab a bite to eat, return library books, drop off my ballot, and simply listen to the wind rustle leaves. Often I just walk for the heck of it.

Much of this walking takes place at night when the earth has already spun so that we don’t see the sun. In the dark, walking in residential neighborhoods, I can see when folks have left their car’s dome lights or headlights on. Growing up, my brother and I made a great team whenever we noticed this. We’d guess which house the car belonged to, and one of us (often I) would go knock on the door while the other waited on the sidewalk with our dogs. I’d knock or ring the doorbell, ask if it was their car with the lights on, wish them a good evening, then continue into the night.
Alone on my walks, I do the same.

Most times, someone does come to the door, and although they are confused and/or stressed upon answering the door for a stranger, they are surprised and grateful once they learn my reason for knocking.

Doing what I do is very simple but it’s layered in complexity. In order to save others from dead car batteries, one must feel comfortable seeking out the owners at night. Night is a time I feel very comfortable in my skin, and hopeful. It’s something I refuse to cede. So is my faith in others. What I do also requires that people have enough trust in the unknown and faith in others to not just answer their door, but listen.

A sad truth is that one of the reasons many people likely immediately cancel “threat” from their minds when they encounter me on their porch, is that I’m white, small, and routinely perceived to be a woman. Due to centuries of systematic and interpersonal racism often only enhanced by divisive national rhetoric, I find it highly unlikely that someone of color, particularly a black man, or someone who is perceived to be transgender, would be as safe as I am knocking on a stranger’s door. Safe in both the physical sense, and from seeing doubt and prejudice flit across the resident’s face. As someone living in a body with breasts and a vagina, as someone who learned like water is life that I needed to be cautious around men, I know I’d be nervous about opening my door to a stranger at night, particularly a man.

For many reasons, that is a shame. Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s election, despite the months of angry rhetoric, I hope we wake up to a world tomorrow in which people suspend their fear (or better, analyze and resolve it) and open their doors to each other. I hope, no matter whom we elect, that we allow ourselves growing faith in others, trusting that we could possible mean and do well for each other. Trust that it pays to listen, and pays to speak up, even if it just means a saved battery sometimes.

I’ll keep walking tomorrow and the next day and the next night after that. As long as my legs allow me, I’ll walk, and I’ll gently offer help. I’ll keep my faith, placing myself at the mercy of those whose doors I knock on, because it’s an investment in my community, and I need that faith in others like I need water and I need air. I need to believe we can be good to each other. And I promise you, I’ll do my best to open my door with an open heart. I hope you will join me.

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