Mondays are my day off, so last Monday afternoon I went to vote at the Coral Gables Library. (The miamidade.gov website said the wait time was 00.00; turns out not everything you see on the Internet is true. Who knew?) But the line outside wasn’t too long, and pretty soon I was inside waiting to check in.
“Next in line please?” I go over to where a very nice, masked lady – I’ll call her Mariyah – asks for my voter’s registration card and ID.
“You and I were born in the same year, same month,” she says.
“Really? You don’t look it.”
“It’s the mask and shield,” she says, laughing.
“Do you mind if I ask where you were born?”
I tell her I was born in Kansas City, and she reacts as though that is as foreign to her as Havana is to me. Actually, probably more so: Havana is much closer to Miami, geographically, culturally and just about every other way, than Kansas City. Plus, I’ve been to Havana, know plenty of other people who also were born there. She has never been to Kansas City, and judging by her reaction I’m probably the only person she’s ever met from there. (Her loss.) At that, we start talking about our different life experiences and what has brought us both here, to Miami, today.
She was born in Cuba; came to the States when she was nine. She had a hard time adjusting because she “was still a little girl, playing with dolls, and the American girls were talking about makeup and boys they liked and much more grownup things.”
Her family then moved overseas and lived in a few different countries. She tells me she is of Lebanese descent, and the full name on her ID badge bears that out. She ended up in Miami back in the 90’s and loves it here.
I tell her I haven’t actually lived in other countries, just spent time in a dozen or so, but I’ve lived in several different states. (No, that doesn’t include Confusion or Denial. I know what you were thinking. Shame on you.) I tell her I also love it here.
I say, “You’ve lived all over the world, and I’ve in all those states … and here we are. And you know. You know better than some people who have lived in the United States all their lives what an incredible country this is.”
She says, forcefully, her eyes starting to mist, “Yes. This is the most wonderful country in the world. I can’t believe how many Americans don’t understand that, want to give it away, to turn it into … someplace else.”
It’s one of those encounters you have only in Miami. Only in America.
She hands me back my voter’s registration card and ID, asks me to sign the little electronic plate with the little plastic, metal-tipped stylus. I do, and like every other time I think how one of my wife’s cats could swipe the thing with its paw and it would look about as much like my signature.
I tell Mariyah it was very nice to meet her … and head to a voting booth, thinking once again how blessed I am to live in this city, in this country, a place so many have sacrificed so much to make free and keep free, a place that people all over the world risk their own lives and the lives of their family to come to. That I get to vote for the candidates of my choice, with all their flaws – and they are real, and they are many … just like mine – and I get to do so freely, openly and without fear of persecution.
That I get to live in this country, with all its flaws – and they are real, and they are many … just like every other country that has ever existed – and that God has blessed us beyond the farthest imaginations of most other people in the world, and even those of our own great-grandparents. Founded and formed by flawed men and women, and inhabited by nothing but flawed people ever since, including – especially? – today, by the grace of God it is still the greatest nation in the world.
And most of all, I’m grateful that regardless of who wins this Tuesday, God is still on his throne and Jesus is still Lord of all.
P. S. If you still haven’t voted, or aren’t sure you’re going to, please read “Why Christians Must Vote” by Charles Colson: https://www.kendallpres.org/why-christians-must-vote.