An air of excitement was tangible. As residents gathered around the breakfast table, Julia spoke first. “Do you like my yellow purse?” Donny laughed, “That’s silly.” “You’re just a dumb boy,” another voice heard from. “Is it here yet?” “I get to be first,” giggled Betsy.
These residents were dressed in Sunday best engaging in affectionate quips. Today was the day.
For weeks, 17 individuals out of 400+ had been preparing to VOTE. These men and women were differently able. Some were persons with Down Syndrome, others had suffered a brain injury as a child, others still were born with different abilities than most of us. All were living in a state institution for the Intellectually Challenged. This day they would share with us an activity many take for granted. For each of them it was a joy, an adventure. Their excitement was tangible.
The League of Women Voters made sure that those who could vote had the opportunity. A portable voting machine and all the paraphernalia was set up in the gym for those who lived on campus.
The moment had come.
Silence fell over the group as they lined up to cast their ballot.
First out of the booth, Alice giggled the name of her candidate.
“You’re not supposed to tell!” admonished Eddy.
Alice declared, “I’ll tell if I want.”
Being a witness to their pure joy gave me a sense of satisfaction. It was my job as chaplain to help prepare them for this momentous occasion. I held the seriousness of this charge in my heart as I sought to be as objective as possible and explain in simple terms their important responsibility.
Weeks of preparation and it was over in a half hour! Each proudly wore their “I VOTED” sticker.
There were 1,700 employees at this institution. No one was safe from their exuberance. I smiled as these individuals acted as voting ambassadors pointing to the sticker they proudly wore as they moved about campus.
We emphatically declare, “Separation of Church and State.” Yet, I cannot separate voting from my spirituality. Can you?
Pat Pickett, OblSB