fb-pixel
OPINION

Postcards on the fate of the nation

‘Voting by mail is the easiest and safest way to make your voice heard in 2020. Please request your ballot today, using this pre-stamped postcard. Thank you!’

A 2016 presidential primary  mail-in ballot at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office
A 2016 presidential primary mail-in ballot at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters officeRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

These words might as well be tattooed on my fingertips:

“Voting by mail is the easiest and safest way to make your voice heard in 2020. Please request your ballot today, using this pre-stamped postcard. Thank you!”

The exclamation point is off-script but sincere — an appreciative little firecracker bursting in the sky. These are cards written in rain and humidity; on the porch and in front of the news; with a couple of cookies, alone or during FaceTime. By now, about 100 of them have been cautiously dropped by the same inky fingertips into a corner mailbox.

I’m acquainted with the person sending them — we share a body. But I have no idea who might be reading them.

Advertisement



Who, and where? The street names are evocative — ”Beautiful Ave.” was a favorite — and the house numbers soar from 2 to 20,000. Addresses with fractions are rare; writing someone who resides at “2 ½” feels like coming across a four-leaf clover.

Somewhere across the country, a stranger is living on Beautiful Ave. If karma chooses, one day we may pass in a train station or stand in a frozen yogurt line. Maybe there will be an exchange of opinions about flavors. Maybe we will be able to see each other below the nose — a pleasant thought.

Until then, this stranger or another opens a door and reaches into a letterbox, stoops for envelopes the postman has dropped through the slot, or walks to the end of the driveway. She has blue hair — from age or from youth. He works in a garage or a hospital, and barely gets to sleep before it’s time to start another day. She loves her grandchildren more than life. He has no family. She lives in a one-bedroom rental behind a chain-link fence. He is drinking too much. Everyone has a secret and a sorrow and, hopefully, a joy. I wish I knew what they were.

Advertisement



They flip through the mail. A certain number (probably large) will toss the postcard immediately. They don’t recognize the first name; they don’t like the exclamation point; and they’ve had it with anonymous solicitations. It’s easy to understand, although when we’re standing in line for caramel frozen yogurt, I might mention that the fate of the nation is in play.

But a certain number will read the postcard, and — either because my organization has made it easy for them to vote by mail, or because they worry about the fate of the nation themselves — they will tear off the pre-stamped registration form addressed to their county clerk. Tomorrow they will drop it into a postbox on the corner of Beautiful Ave. Never having met, we have moved the boulder forward an inch.

Stranger, thank you.

Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.