The first e-mail I read when I fired up the laptops at NPR was from my friend Ami, who lives in my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. She shared her experience of election 2008 with me, and gave me permission to share her message here:

Two weeks ago we spent an evening with a woman from Argentina. When we asked her how she ended up in Spartanburg she gave us that “Who the hell knows!?!” kind of shrug of the shoulders and shake of the head. When we asked her if the decision to move here had been a good one she responded that she would have to get back to us on that one, pending the outcome of the elections today. And then she added that she had been volunteering hours of her time for the last several months helping local people in this community to register to vote. She, herself, is not eligible to vote today. She is a professional woman, in this country legally, contributing to the health and welfare of this quirky little town, and though she cannot cast a ballot today, she has ensured that hundreds of other people will.

Last week my father went to try to vote. He had clearance to vote early this year. He left work each day, one day in the morning, another day in the afternoon, and another day in the evening to try to cast his ballot. My father takes voting very seriously. He fully believes in his right make his opinion known and expects for it to count. And each day, at the one designated polling place open for early voters, he walked away because the line was so long that he was not going to be able to wait it out.

He finally voted on Friday. He stood in line for 3 hours. He said he enjoyed it. My father hates to wait. And he said he didn’t mind a single minute of it.

This morning we got up well before the sun was up. Well before the polls opened at 7am. We rolled out of bed, grabbed warm clothes, comfortable shoes, a couple of magazines, a granola bar and a water bottle. We joked that maybe we were going a little overboard in our preparations. This little town is not exactly known for the healthiest of turnouts. Before we could see the church where we were assigned to vote we could see the cars. Everywhere. (I felt sorry for the surrounding small business owners who did not stand a chance of getting into their parking lots today). We chuckled some more, but this time with a little bit of awe, with a little bit of appreciation, with a little bit of hope, and quietly murmured “Amen.”

I stood in line for 2 ½ hours this morning. As the sun rose. In the cool, damp morning. And as people introduced themselves, and shared the paper, and bemoaned the cup of coffee that they were wishing they had brought with them, I couldn’t keep from smiling.

Photo: Barack Obama (Flickr creative commons)