In a world where apathy is seemingly unavoidable, community organizing can seem daunting at best and downright impossible at times. Canvassers are tasked with the challenge of knocking on a stranger’s door, engaging them in a dialogue about an injustice, and (here’s the hard part) empowering them to actually DO something. These Organizers look people in the eyes, and dare them to put their money where their mouth is. If that sounds a little audacious, that’s because it is. It’s audacious in the best way.
It is that audacity that holds people accountable to taking action on their beliefs.
In my own experience knocking doors for two years, I realized that generally people wanted and needed someone to call them on their inaction. They respect that kind of frankness, and genuinely thanked me for my work. What was also apparent is that most people aren’t actually apathetic; they feel frustrated and powerless in a system that seemingly reinforces big money while ignoring the little guy. Words can’t describe how incredibly empowering it is to walk away from a door and know that just by being there and believing in what you say, you have changed the directions of someone’s thoughts. You’ve reversed a natural tendency to do nothing and sparked a belief in people power which becomes exponential. It’s the kind of experience that gives you the chills.
A good canvass develops in its organizers a courage of conviction that lights a fire. The communication skill they master in a matter of weeks is just the cherry on top. I’m talking about an intangible confidence that builds the kind of character that has fueled the grassroots movement throughout history. These characters influenced by this work include the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Wellstone, and even Barack Obama.
Will knocking on doors make you President of the United States? Statistically, it probably won’t, but the point is it could! What’s certain is it opens doors, literally ALL kinds of doors. You will be pushed outside your comfort zone in every way possible. Most incredibly, you will learn to ask for what you want and mean it, and that makes you powerful.Sarah Casper, Metro Campus Organizer
Photo credit: MNDaily 11.2.2013 Pictured: Magda Bilska, MPIRG Field Canvass Director talks with a student in Dinkytown