By Alex May
This spring break, I spent time in rural Virginia. You probably haven’t heard of the town. I know that I hadn’t, but I was looking forward to going on my first major service trip, and I didn’t mind that I hadn’t heard of it before. I didn’t even have a complete understanding as to what we would we doing in rural Virginia for a whole week, but that didn’t bother me, either. All I knew was we would be working with a non-profit organization, so I waited until we got there to learn more about what we were doing.
The non-profit organization we worked with is a statewide grassroots organization that aims to make positive change in all communities across the state. They spread awareness to the people of Virginia about pertinent issues, by which they might not even be aware that they’re being afflicted with, and have a political presence that is slowly, but steadily, growing.
A grassroots group like the one we worked with is powered by the people that it tries to reach. Volunteers are absolutely essential, and without them, the organization would fall apart. Therefore, recruitment is a large part of the day-to-day work. That’s where we came in. The organization finds potential new members by canvassing, which is a glamorous word for knocking on strangers’ doors, handing them an informative flyer, and trying to sell their cause in the precious few seconds of time they are given.
Like many other American children, I was raised never to talk to strangers, let alone ring their doorbells and have political conversations with them. I’ll admit that I was more than I little nervous as I approached my first house, because I was armed with nothing but a clipboard and a stack of flyers. Before I knew it, though, I had the pitch down cold, with a few of my own unique twists. Not long after I was recruiting new members left and right and generating a lot of interest for issues such as protecting social security and voter rights, the winterization of homes, among others. After that, I went door to door in a housing project and had great conversations with some of the nicest people I’d ever met in my life. To be honest, I’d never set foot in public housing before, and by that point in the week, it never even occurred to me to think twice about doing it. I was amazed at the hospitality that I received from people of all social classes and all races. I was invited into huge mansions and tiny apartments because people genuinely cared about what I had to say. It was eye-opening to say the least, because in this day and age, it’s easy to forget to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best in everybody.
Never again will I be suspicious of strangers just because I’m passing through a “bad area” in town. Citizens in rural Virginia showed me that the majority of people are friendly, curious, and always looking for a good conversation.