Community can be built on the stoop (Greg Lowe Column)

Greg Lowe

Hi, my name is Greg and I’m with the Democratic National Committee, working to beat George Bush and elect John Kerry this November …”

That was me about 2000 times this summer. And this was you:

SLAM!

OK, that wasn’t always you. Most of the time, you were really nice. If you disagreed with me, you were usually courteous. And sometimes you were very supportive and not only gave me money, but also made my day.

But this column goes out to those of you who slammed the door in my face as I was going door to door raising money for the DNC. And especially to those of you who said you don’t talk to people at the door or you’d rather donate over the Internet.

However this isn’t about politics — I can deal with Republicans disagreeing with me or telling me that I’m helping terrorists “come over here and behead us all.” Those are appropriate responses to a crazy kid coming to the door and asking for money to help elect John Kerry.

And I can even deal with apathy. I know there are millions of Americans who think that politics isn’t one of the most important things in their lives, and some of them might even be right. Although I’d love to convince the rest of them that this election is important, I know I can’t do that in 30 seconds.

But what really got to me were the people who shared my passion but didn’t want to talk to me.

I know this country is inundated with telemarketing, junk mail and spam — I hate it just as much anyone else.

Picking up the phone and hearing a recording is a pretty annoying experience. I never understood why spammers think disguising penis-enlargement ads as friendly e-mails is effective marketing.

That shouldn’t numb people to the fact that I was a real person (a neighbor!) coming to the door because I passionately believed in what I was doing. This was the way things used to work back when we had something called “communities.”

But now people are more skeptical of a college kid coming to their door than a mass mailing from James Carville. People would rather send their credit card information into cyberspace than give a check made out to the DNC to a kid spending his summer hurting his future job prospects.

I was pretty ambivalent about my job when I started the summer. I wasn’t exactly relishing the opportunity to interrupt people’s dinners and ask for money. I’m still not sure whether the money I raised was actually put to good use or was swallowed up by bureaucracy. And I don’t even know how good of a president Kerry would be.

In the end I’m glad I did my part to break down the walls our increasingly connected world has created. Although the Internet has helped to bring us together, there’s something to be said for talking to each other.

So put yourself on the do-not-call list. Get a spam filter. And shred your junk mail. But when an idealistic kid knocks on your door, answer it. We both might learn something.

Greg Lowe is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected]