Sometimes the conversation ends before I get in a word.
“Not interested!” The door slams.
Sometimes, I get to wave and say, “Hi, how are you?”
“No thank you,” they say.
Welcome to my life. I’m an environmental policy canvasser (at least, at the time I drafted this article, I was).
Sometimes, they let me finish the whole spiel, afterwards to tell me they aren’t compelled to action. What? Who doesn’t care about saving the bees and our food supply? They’re not worth the additional time. “Ok, have a nice day! Mind if I leave you with some information?”
A dozen a day might be willing to sign a petition to their legislator.
But a smaller handful do indeed give to our supporter-funded organization. And that’s what I’m after.
Let me tell you, I get far more rejections than yeses. It’s just the nature of the job.
And I’ve grown so much in resilience, confidence, and conversationality.
Resilience. Many days, I walk ten miles, just going between houses. They can be far apart, and the driveways can be long. I also bike to and from work, so I have exercise built into my routine — a solid four, five hours of hustling every day.
While out in the field, if my legs aren’t moving, my mouth is. Although I am an introvert, I find that I can healthily engage with scores of strangers, daily, and at length. Sure, it takes mental resolve (the mouth and body follow the will, after all), but I found that there is another quality that informs true resilience:
Confidence. At the end of the day, I didn’t choose to canvass to simply earn a paycheck, because there are other jobs that suit higher financial goals. There are personal and compelling reasons that drive me forward to every doorstep. I know that my countenance is honest, and that my words are sincere. I don’t have much to hide in my mission.
People are people, and each interaction is different. I never know how they will respond, but I know what I can bring to our conversation. I can carry myself with dignity, conviction, and love. Which leads me to the next quality:
Communication. Yes, I have internalized a certain “rap” to initiate each conversation and to talk about our organization’s cause. But I remember that I am speaking to a unique individual, with their own dreams and worries, someone worthy of respect, and not just another number to mark on my tally, or an opportunity on which to capitalize a “successful” night.
In other words, I can treat them with compassion and gratitude, regardless of whether they have anything to give or add to my quota.
In staff training, I was given a toolkit for how to respond to most types of encounters. We practice role play on a daily basis — so much so that it’s easy for our responses to be automatic, even rehearsed. But I didn’t ever want these tools to replace being present in each conversation.
A truthful presence is at the core of communication, which is carried by confidence, which is in turn, supported by resilience.
And the Truth that I live in, of course, is Christ in me.
As a society, we tend to compartmentalize our different functions. There are markets for every desire, experts for every need. And as a result, we often forget the integration between spirit, mind, and body.
Even for those who have given our lives to Christ, it’s easy to exclude God from the secular (i.e. work, among other things).
Despite working from a script, I felt authentically myself during the experience of canvassing. With familiar words rolling off my tongue, I had the energy and focus to think — really think — about what I was doing, and to be present.
When we invite God into the present, we allow Him to use us as instruments of righteousness. And there is no time or situation where this partnered relationship isn’t possible.
So I settled into an easy rhythm of singing praises between houses, praying over neighborhoods, blessing each household I visited, and in some cases, even sharing my faith (lol…. on the clock, too).
The miraculous thing is that I never failed to make quota. On some slower days, I wondered if I would, but I was never truly anxious for God to provide.
One night, I was meditating on the Lord’s provision for Israel in the wilderness: manna, or bread from heaven (Exodus 16). Daily, it appeared on the ground, and daily, the people came out of their tents to gather their food for the day.
At the end of the shift, I looked over my totals. $365 raised, with 12 completes. For every day and every month of the year, He will give us our daily bread.
But perhaps the most important and symbolic part of this job is the act of knocking.
Yes, the long-term goal is to gather enough support for the Massachusetts Pollinator Act, in order to save the bees from neonicotinoid usage in agriculture, and ultimately to be better stewards of the earth.
How does that all begin, though? Like Lao Tzu once said, the journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Or in this case, a knock.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”Matthew 7:7-8
Many of us are too timid to knock, or even approach all the metaphorical doors in our life.
But what’s the harm in asking, seeking, or knocking? We may need to wait at the threshold, but with willingness and patience, surely we shall receive, find, and enter open doors.
Like the manna outside our tents, we have bread to eat and be satisfied within our reach.