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Lessons from the Field (In Millennial-Friendly List Form!)

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This post is by Meg Rierson, a field canvasser with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. 

My name is Megumi (Meg for short) and I recently joined NARAL’s Washington field canvass team. I just finished my freshman year at Whitman College, where I am pursuing a politics major and a gender studies minor. As with any new job, being a field canvasser teaches you a ton of new skills and experiences. Maybe teach isn’t the right word here—it inundates you with new skills and experiences. I’ve distilled a few choice (pun absolutely intended) examples from my short time here at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and compiled a list. Millennials love lists, right? I’m one of the few in my generation who doesn’t have the tech savvy to throw in some cat GIFs to pique your interest, but I’ve done my best.

1. Enunciation is really important. Going door to door is all about keeping your message really clear and logical. One time someone at the door thought I said “Catholic hospital murder” instead of “Catholic hospital merger.” Clarity is key. Though maybe he would have made a donation if I did in fact mean to say murder. Who knows? This skill is one of an endless list that can be applied to the world outside of canvassing. Also on the list is “don’t sit in dog poop” and “it’s probably not professional to aggressively hug the people who give you donations.”

2. Anything can become an existential musing if you want it to be. Many times throughout my time as a canvasser, usually after the 10th time I’ve given my speech to someone at the door, I get weirdly existential. Isn’t it crazy how many people we talk to and how our lives will only ever intersect this one time? How many people are there in the world whose lives will never intersect? Am I on the Truman show right now? Is David Sedaris writing his next short story about me and the rapidly increasing number of people who have told me they’re praying for me? Canvassing gives you a lot of time to consider these possibilities as you heave yourself up an endless uphill Lake Forest Park driveway or circle a house three times because you’re not sure where in God’s name the front door is.

3. Everything balances out. Really, though, it does. If you get a door with a particularly cranky human, you’re guaranteed to get someone later who invites you in to pet their cat (thank you sweet old woman in Burien). If you don’t quite make your fundraising goal one night, you’ll make up for it later in the week. I’ve really never felt more strongly about the order and balance that exists in the universe than when I’ve been canvassing.

All jokes aside, I couldn’t have foreseen that I would glean these particular tokens of wisdom from canvassing, but I do know that I accepted the job precisely because I wanted to experience triumphs and successes outside of the bubble of a small college campus. At the end of the day, I’m doing work that I’m truly passionate about, but I feel like that phrase is overused to the point where it has lost its meaning. When I say I’m doing work I’m passionate about, I mean that my job makes me passionately excited, passionately concerned, and sometimes passionately angry. I chose this job because I can’t think of anything better than being paid to talk about reproductive rights all day. Plus, there’s endless fodder for my comedy routine, and that in itself is payment enough.

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