Andrew Lewis: Night Offices

2 min

It isn’t fun, but for Andrew Lewis working the phones to protect the right to vote this year has taken on a somewhat religious cast.

The calls come slow and steady. The issues are sometimes serious, at times simple, at times nuanced. A woman in North Carolina received both her ballot and a card stating that she was not properly registered. An early voter in Texas reports that a poll worker has illegally changed his vote. An 18-year-old boy voting for the first time in Pennsylvania is so worried that he might do something wrong that he’s on the verge of tears.

All of them value their suffrage.

I went to bed late that night, the windows open just in case, so that I might smell the first whiff of smoke from an advancing fire. Sometime after 4 my phone chirped. A woman monitoring a scanner had heard word of a new blaze up on the Occidental ridge. Crews were being dispatched. She posted an alert on Facebook. Did anyone have any information?

I lay in the dark and I thought of Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk and theologian. I thought of how he had once written of the night offices. He described how the Trappist monks would arise deep in the night and would keep vigil in the darkened silence until dawn. He imagined monastics all around the world, each taking a night shift in their own place and in their own time so as to carry and hold all people through the darkness. They would tender hope or solace until the sun would rise again. It was necessary, he wrote, to see the first point of light which begins to dawn.

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I was tired, but nonetheless I got out of bed in the dark. The sun was just rising in Pennsylvania. I sat down at my computer. I logged into the Voter Assistance Hotline. And I began my shift.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.