October 2019

“Democracy” is our October theme. What are your earliest memories of democracy?

I was still too young for kindergarten. But I went to the local elementary school with my mother one election day – to the gym. It was filled with strange, small booths. Adults went into the booths and closed the curtains. The atmosphere was hushed. It felt solemn, important, almost sacred.

My family voted Democrat. At my elementary school and in my town, most families voted Republican. The neighborhood kids taunted my sister Betsy and me as we walked home, the day John Kennedy lost the Hunnewell School presidential election by a very wide margin. (It turned out not to matter how Hunnewell voted.)

Another election – this one among sixth graders. When I was at the Hunnewell School, sixth graders served, unsupervised by an adult, as crossing guards. There were two crosswalks on the street next to the school, and another crosswalk out of sight, at least two blocks away.

Both sixth grade classes assembled in the library to learn about Safety Patrol duties. The teachers must have used some discretion in choosing who could be on the team, but the entire sixth grade voted to choose the captain. There were preliminaries, and then a final vote – a choice between Lucia, Linda, and me. The runners-up would be lieutenants.

I desperately wanted to be Safety Patrol Captain. And – I struggled with my conscience, which told me it wouldn’t be nice to vote for myself. I was sure Linda was more popular than Lucia, so I voted for Lucia. I lost by one vote. Lucia voted for herself, and won.

Bernard Shaw wrote, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” Election season is approaching. It’s not too soon to start thinking about and working for what we deserve – what the country needs and deserves, what our children and grandchildren need and deserve, what our earth home needs and deserves. UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray exhorted last June’s General Assembly to work hard to “UU the vote.” And, she said, we need to start now. 

I hope we will. And I hope we’ll find many ways to do the work together. It feels solemn, important, almost sacred.

I am ever grateful to be your minister.   Janets signature

PS. Here is the link to the Touchstone Journal for October, “Democracy".