Today, I voted.
I stood in the booth and filled in the bubbles that will determine the outcome of this upcoming presidential election. I got a sticker after I voted to put on myself to show just how much of a responsible American citizen I am.
I walked out of the voting place to see an old man sitting next to a homemade cardboard sign in protest. It read, “Socialism is Not! The change we want! Give us honesty.”
There is an inherit insanity that surrounds protesters. It’s a stigma, really. Protesters are only trying to makes some change happen, or display their opinion. There’s nothing crazy about expressing yourself, yet I thought this man was bonkers.
He just sat there on a brisk Monday morning, next to a homemade cardboard sign with words etched in sharpie, all a day away from the presidential election. This whole image could be an album cover for some rock band during the Cold War or something.
I decided to take a picture of him for my social media. This way all my friends could see this protester on our college campus. I thought it would make for a funny or interesting picture. In essence, I thought this man was crazy and I needed a picture with this crazy person.
Anyways, I walked up to the man. He wore blue jeans, boots, a red sweater, and a red hat with the words 1st Marine Division embroidered on. I asked him if I could take a picture with him, and he said yes. It is the cover photo for this blog post.
I sat down with the man. I asked him how long he has been out protesting. He said he had only been there for no more than ten minutes before I came by. I asked him how long he was planning on staying out. He said that he’ll stay out there until he can’t anymore. He said that that won’t be long at his age.
He went on a little bit about Socialism and its flaws, but he stopped after a few seconds after he knew I wasn’t too interested. I felt bad for brushing off his opinions, so I asked him where he was from.
We got into conversation. He asked me what my major was (English). I told him that I wanted to be a high school teacher when I get out of school. Apparently, this man graduated at the same school I am currently going to . He was originally an electrical engineering major before he switched to biology. He graduated after nearly flunking twice.
The old man told me about how he was a general science teacher at a high school.
I was a little taken back.
I told him about someone telling me that teaching is the one of the most difficult jobs out there, but also one of the most rewarding.
He told me that most people think that teachers only work 9 months out of the year. This was not true. Teaching, he told me, was a job that took all your time. He’d be done with the day at 10pm after waking up at 6am. But, he said it was all worth if for him.
The old man told me stories about how he’d watch his kids in school try and solve a problem that he had given them, and how good he felt that he was the facilitator for this thinking. He said that nothing beats the feeling of seeing a kid you taught grow up and become something.
He said that not a lot of people like to think for themselves these days. Everyone just follows the orders and don’t make decisions for themselves. That was the reason he was out there.
He told of people walking by and giving him dirty looks, people not being able to make eye contact with him, and people giving him two thumbs up. His agenda was not to sway the opinions of the people to his side. His plan was to get people to think. The main goal of his protest was for people to start thinking for themselves, just like his students when he taught high school. He was out there for the growth of the mind and the self.
What a noble quest he was on.
So why do I tell you this? I understood that this man was wise and knowledgeable. Old people are most of the time. They are wells of information that are rarely tapped. We can learn so much from talking to the elderly. This old mad had 80+ years under his belt. We could have talked forever, but I had class to cut our encounter short. What started out as a photo op turned out to be an impacting conversation with a random stranger.
I decided to talk to more random strangers. People have things to say, but they don’t always have people to listen. People aren’t crazy for trying to express themselves. We’re crazy for not listening.
Maybe if we talked to people that we usually wouldn’t normally, then everyone could understand the world a bit better. Maybe then we would all continue learning and cement thoughts and ideals for ourselves. I know it all sounds melodramatic, but it’s how I felt today. If you get the chance, talk to someone, listen, and learn. Hopefully they’ll do the same,
We’re all arguing with our backs to each other.
Let’s turn around, introduce ourselves, and talk about Socialism.