As campaign rhetoric ramps up and subsequent images of dueling parties dominate the public imagination, I thought it might be nice to share something that’s been downright inspiring of late. About people, of all things.
When I signed up to knock on doors for the Decennial Census, I, along with everyone else, had no idea a pandemic would be changing every plan under the sun. Thus, what was supposed to have begun in the hospitable walking month of April was pushed to the hellish month of August here in Fort Worth. And with that, I joined about half a million other folks nationwide working behind the scenes and on the streets, knocking on doors and doing our darnedest to keep our cool as we tried to figure out who was where on April 1, Census Day.
And from that moment on — the unfortunate politicization of the census during the run-up notwithstanding — I’ve been fairly busting my buttons with pride at the willingness of Fort Worth folks to help with “the count.” I mean, people of all shapes, colors, sizes, ethnicities, abilities, and incomes are taking this Constitutional mandate seriously.
Everywhere, from the mansion on the hill to the apartment with cardboard in the windows and the guy who greeted me on his front lawn as I weighed the prospects of venturing beyond his “Beware of Dog” sign posted on a sidewalk fence to the mail carrier-cum-standup-comedian who proxied for me and made me LOL when it was 110 degrees in the shade.
From the gaggle of TCU renters who asked me to teach them about the census because they were really interested (seriously!) to the mother who had just moments before been nursing the infant in her arms but who thought it was important enough to take a break and participate, babe still in arms.
From the construction super who took time out to show me photos of his property on April 1 so the census could be assured it wasn’t a residence but rather a vast office park under construction to the guy who was probably undocumented but understood that the census isn’t about citizenship. It’s about a headcount. And so much more. Congressional reps, roads and bridges, health care, education, and so on.
And while we’re at it, here’s a shoutout to all the countless Realtors, landlords, and builders we’ve been reaching out to by phone. You have my gratitude for the help — and my apologies for the incredibly long-winded voice messages we’re required to leave.
And, brothers and sisters, there’s a special place in heaven for all the multi-unit residential property managers who have helped us again and again … and again and again as they endure the revolving door of Enumerators asking for access codes, complex maps, and anything else that will help us close our cases, which aren’t assigned complex by complex but rather apartment by apartment. Hope springs eternal that the higher-ups will figure out how to make better sense of that one next time around.
To be sure, not everyone has been happy to help. Part of the job involves confirming whether or not residential properties that were on the rolls in 2010 are still there, so occasionally we’re directed to, say, backyard garages that are not separate residences, and those garage owners aren’t always happy to see us lurking about their yards, trying to determine whether or not we have access to what may or may not be another residence.
But even to this small but vocal chorus of refusers, I can honestly say, Thank you for your time. I get it. Whether you’re unhappy with the government (duh) or just overwhelmed by the gravity of your lives, the pandemic, the loss of employment, “distance learning” for your 4-, 6-, and 8-year-olds, or anything else, we’re all doing what we can to cope.
So, I hope it impresses you as much as it does me that, for the most part, most folks have been, in the immortal words of Lowell George, willin’. And while I was never “warped by the rain” or “driven by the snow” during any of my encounters, not to put too fine a point on it, I was always humbled by the civility and frequent hospitality of my fellow Fort Worthians. And that kept me willin’ to keep knocking on those doors. — Caryl Sherman-Gonzalez
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