The Importance of Participation

I was recently at my parents’s house and found my box of awards. You know the one I mean: the one that has all those participation ribbons and those good works and the more special awards, the ones you worked really hard to receive and tried to act like you didn’t care if you got them or not, but you really did care: the MVPs, the honor roll, the good citizens award.

And I was thinking about those Award Nights throughout school in which I knew that by participating I was eligible to receive an award, but there was a big maybe hanging in the air. Maybe I would be called out or maybe I would watch as other teammates and classmates were (this was much more of my experience). And I thought about how vulnerable that place of uncertainty is: the not knowing, the hoping, the possibility of being let down. It would have been a lot safer to not have participated at all because then I would know that I wasn’t eligible. I would have taken myself out of the running.

And I know that’s where a lot of us are in our presidental elections. We’ve taken ourselves, our vote, our voice out of the running because we don’t want to participate because we aren’t happy with either candidate. And I get it because participating, signing up to vote, going to vote, and then waiting to see if your vote mattered at all, is vulnerable and risky and you find yourself in the same position as in school waiting and hoping, but not knowing.

But being in the midst of that scary, undecided, waiting position is one of the best position we can put ourselves in because it means we are depending and counting on a community of people. It means we are putting our control on the line. It means we are not going to be able to cop out with the “Well, that’s why I didn’t vote,” when the December rolls around.

Instead, we tried. We participated. We voted.