He is a nice, older gentleman. He comes from a small town in the midwest, where he and his siblings were raised by a single mom. He knows poverty, has lived it and doesn’t like how it made him feel.
“The neighbors brought us Christmas presents,” he reminisces and a short while later I learn about GOVERNMENT CHEESE.
“We were the first whites in the housing projects,” he lets me know, “We got beaten up a lot,” he continues and I can almost picture it.
He is a simple man with a heart of gold. He is a hard worker and shows character trades, that you don’t see very often these days. He is honest and kind. He talks about his wife, and I can hear the love he feels for her and the life they have shared -and continue to share.
He finds happiness in smaller things and is content with the life he has.
We work together since a while and I can tell I puzzle him, perhaps as much as he bewilders me.
I told him he could turn on the TV in my workroom, and when he did it I cringed inside but didn’t say much. He loves the local stations and enjoys listening to everything they offer throughout the day. Games shows, talk shows, TV judges and local news entertains him, and he doesn’t understand why I judge all of it so harshly.
He reacts the same way when I turn on MSNBC or CNN and doesn’t understand why I would watch BBC. The rest of the word is far away for him and he likes it that way.
I have broken the iron rule not to talk about politics in my workroom numerous times throughout the last two years and by now, I don’t even try to muzzle myself. What for? It doesn’t work.
“I have never voted,” he told me right before the midterm election and I stared at him in disbelieve. “Never?” I ask and he nods.
“They all lie,” he says like it would explain everything and perhaps it does.
I have promised myself not to judge other people and I continue to follow my own direction beautifully, but this gentleman tested me quite a bid.
“Don’t you want your voice to be heard?” I ask him and he doesn’t say anything for a while.
“My vote won’t matter,” he finally says, “Neither do I,” he adds and I feel unbelievably helpless and my mind is racing and I am quietly debating with myself.
Should I? Could I?
I prepare myself for the speech I am going to give him shortly. The one about “Duty and Democracy” when he interrupts my thoughts.
“So, who should I vote for?” and he looks at me with a curiosity that reminds me of a child.
“Now is the time to give him the speech,” I think, and then I will list everything good about the party who I happen to vote for at the present time, and of course, I will not miss the chance to talk bad about the other side.
But to my surprise, I don’t react the way I thought I would. “Good question,” is all I say and then I start chatting about the next project, and ask him about his availability.
I am not a saint and I have numerous flaws, but manipulating somebody that could be so easily manipulated is not one of them. How easy it would be to tell him who to vote for, and how wrong it would be at the same time.
As so often in my life I listen to my gut. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
I will continue to work with THE MAN WHO DOESN’T VOTE and will stay out of this business. He has lived a long and happy life, who am I to change him.
If he asks questions I will answer truthfully and honest -and of course, biased- but until then I will bite my tongue.
I like him.