I have a secret vice. I’ve been too embarrassed to confess it to anyone except for my wife, who not only indulges it but finds it somewhat amusing. Which can be infuriating in its own way, since by all rights she should disapprove. After all, she’s affected by it, too.
I do wish I could feel the way she feels, though. It would be so liberating. Oh, the torments of shame I’ve endured! How many times have I said to myself, “That’s it, Jim. That’s the last time. Never, never again.” Only to relapse.
So I’m ready to take this big step: I’m going to tell all of you about it, in the hope that by making it public, I can stop the cycle of transgression, shame, renunciation, transgression, shame …
Here it is: I am the easiest mark in the world for young adults canvassing for social causes. Especially anything concerning the environment. I have never said no! Not one time!
Yesterday, it was this nice young man canvassing for Greenpeace on the sidewalk along 23rd Street. I had the most wonderful conversation with him about stopping oil companies from drilling in the Arctic, about Greenpeace’s reputation in the U.S., about how Greenpeace is funded, about environmental advocacy in general, about the Appalachian Trail (which he has through-hiked), about my beloved Ogeechee River, about Andrew Goldsworthy (whose Wall at Storm King Art Center my wife and I plan to see tomorrow), and various other topics.
As people swerved and bobbed and weaved and veered to avoid us.
There’s just something about it that gets me right here (Jim points to his heart): these young people, still in college or recently graduated, trudging up sidewalks and ringing doorbells, spirits drooping as one person after another shuts a door in his or her face
It’s not just that, though. So often the young canvasser is genuinely knowledgeable and passionate about the cause, as Richard from Greenpeace so obviously was. I find that so refreshing. The lack of cynicism. I feel, in the moment, that I want to be a part of that, even for 10 minutes standing in the summer heat and cloud of mosquitos on my front porch.
Or on a busy New York City sidewalk at rush hour, talking on Richard’s cellphone to someone named Victoria, who is busy taking down my credit card information.
So, there you have it. Yes, I admit that I have promised one young woman from Spelman College that I will help her get admitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I have served cold drinks to perspiring teenagers who did not know that any place on Earth could be as hot as Georgia in August. I have talked about grassroots organizing until both the canvasser and I were blue in the face. I have unnerved many a young person with the intensity of my interest in the details of her organization’s “priority campaign.”
I confess it all.