marchondc (marchondc) wrote,

Confessions of a NARAL Volunteer

After a two day, Father-Daughter Bonding drive from Texas to Virginia, we decided to go into D.C. so I could "show him around"-as though I knew anymore than he did, I simply had one or two metro rides under my belt, and this meant to me I was our tour guide. I had always wanted to go see Ford's Theatre because, call me cheesy, but I think it is intense to stand places where historical figures have died, especially the good ones that represent massive steps forward in civil rights, like Lincoln. BUT as we stepped off at Metro Center, I saw a little corner storefront with an array of NARAL signs on the windows. This seemed kind of surreal in that the whole reason I moved to this side of the country-after a life as a total momma's girl who went to college an hour away from her parents and her childhood home-was just so that I could get involved with organizations like NARAL...I mean, I could name the non-profits I knew I was interested in on one hand and NARAL was definitely on the index finger and here it is, just growing out of the ground as a ride the up escalor out of the subway, my very fisrt jaunt into the city as a new Virginia resident! So my father and I crossed the street to investigate, I was hesitant to open the door, I didn't want to bust in unexpectantly on some kind of top secret NARAL meeting with them thinking I am an angry anti-choicer bursting in to spray them with red paint and spew angry rhetoric...they would mace me and the police would be called and NARAL would actually put a restraining order on me, making it very difficult for me to volunteer. In hindsight, they probably would not hold confidential meetings in an open storefront nor would they assume that anyone who walked in was an anti-choice terrorist, but i have a vivid imagination...nonetheless, I finally got over those irrational fears and stepped in- still cautiously, mind you- and I was greeted by Vesta who was a shining beacon of pro-choice activism, full of information and pamphlets and stickers and ways to get involved! And to my shock, my father has become super pro-choice and was all about buying me a t shirt to show his support for the cause...NARAL Action Center bringing families together! And this was the first day it was open! And so began my so-far brief (this was on Valentine's Day I believe) but delightful stint as a NARAL volunteer.

I showed up for Wednesday Activist night and was immediately forced to face one of my long standing fears: calling strangers. I have always had a phone phobia, even when calling relatives, but especially strangers. I had once tried to telemarket cell phones, but my proposed 8 hour shift turned into 2 hours when I realized a) I do not like to cold call people out of the phone book and b) I don't know anything about cell phones! It was a bad combination and I left somehow fearing phones more so than before. But this was something I care about and know about and it wasn't cold calling, it was a list of people who signed up with the NARAL website. That was a good start and after butchering the first couple of phones calls, being flustered by such simple questions as "what's this march for?" "what does NARAL stand for?" and "how did you get my name?," I finally got a rhythm going and I felt empowered and almost obligated to call these people, and no matter how rude they were or inconvenienced they seemed, I knew I was doing something important and after a polite goodbye, I would be eager to call the next person, who could very possibly be as totally stoked about the March as I am. It felt good. And they fed us pizza, that felt good, too, after the week I spent on the Special K cereal diet. But I do blame NARAL for not losing 6 pounds in two weeks like the cereal box told me I would, but I will forgive them and continue to phone bank like champ whenever they need me.

I have gotten to go to events I never would have even known about, like when Dean endorsed Kerry at GW...I had never been in the same pavilion as two democratic presidential nominees! Call me a big cheeseball again, but I almost cried during one of the speeches (but this must be taken in the context that peanut butter commercials and Adam Sandler movies make me cry). Not to mention that the people waiting in line were enthusiastically signing up for the march which made the day so very fulfilling. I thought phonebanking was daunting, so flyering took it to a whole other level. Its one thing to flyer a big liberal leaning event like this Kerry speech or the AFL-CIO Anti-Bush rally, but going up to complete strangers in an apolitical setting like a market or a subway stop, that is a big departure from my comfort zone. Especially, when I realize that I am still thinking in North Texas mode...If I went up to strangers at the DART-rail in Dallas, talking openly about reproductive rights issues, I would not expect an open-armed greeting, I might even expect some harassment and maybe even threats! But things are a little different here, and the few people who expressed an anti-choice opinion have always been nothing but polite and just shifted away quickly. After a few minutes of people rushing furiously away from you with their heads focused squarely on the ground, refusing to even look at the lovely pro-choice sticker you offered them or the informative flyer that mocks the smirking men signing away women's freedoms as though it is just another day on the job (because apparently their job description has changed from upholding the Constitution to taking away whatever rights a woman has over her own body and her own privacy), someone is receptive. Maybe they have heard about the march but just need a reminder on the date and a pen to sign up with or maybe they have never heard about the march before and although they are not prepared to sign up right away, they will take their flyer, take to the Internet and educate themselves...after just a few seconds of reading about the full throttle attack on reproductive freedoms, they will, no doubt, be lacing up their marching shoes! Even the people who show no interest and no pause when taking the sticker, at least they took the sticker! When cleaning out their purse or coat pockets later, even if they throw it away, they will have read "pro-choice" and will probably think about it: Are they pro-choice? Are they busy Sunday, April, 25? Are they tired of the government trying to make private health decisions for women? Hopefully, the answers they come to are yes, no, yes and we'll see them there! Regardless, I did my job trying to educate and motivate the pro-choice majority and that makes me feel good....even without the pizza.

NARAL Action Center Volunteer
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