Lunch with my young friend was going great. We hadn’t connected for a while, so catching up was our agenda, which we did with great pleasure.  Over coffee, though, we touched on politics and the coming elections. What followed felt for a moment like a cloud had swallowed the sun.

“I can’t believe in anyone in Washington right now,” my young friend said. “Our country is a mess. It’s not the America I believe in. I‘m so disgusted I’m not going to vote.”

“Whoa!” I said. “That doesn’t make sense. You have to know how important every vote is in a democracy.”

“Sure, when a democracy works. Ours is way outta whack these days,” he replied.

“All the more reason to voice your choices,” I challenged.

“What choices do I have when I don’t know who to believe?”

“Believe yourself, your values. Vote for whomever comes closer to your thinking. No candidate’s perfect, but there are those who see America the way you do. They need your vote, now more than ever.” I followed up with a barrage of images that I hoped would give him the push he needed.

I said that in a democracy every vote is vital, as is every piece in a mosaic. Or every part of a puzzle. One missing tile or piece is like a tooth-gap in a smile or a dropped note in a piece of music: it changes everything.  It weakens and ruins what’s meant to be whole. Without your vote, democracy pays a price. You must know that.

It’s not that your vote will be the one that is most crucial, one that will change everything, but it is the one that carries your voice; it deserves to be heard, needs to be, especially now, and also to find and strengthen other voices like your own.

When I finished and calmed down, my friend nodded in a heavy silence, then reached for my hand and said, “Thanks, Charlie. I know all of that but I guess I needed to hear it out loud. My anger has me feeling helpless. Thanks for reminding me I’m not.”

I said, “At my age, I realize it’s more your world than mine now, but my vote is my voice, too. My future is you, you and your generation’s dreams for our country and the world. Don’t let those dreams buy into the fear being generated by the myopic, nationalistic policies of the present administration. That’s why your vote, your voice, is needed now more than ever. Think about that. And tell your friends!”

Our coffee had gone, cold but our hugs and handshakes when leaving were strong and warm…and resolute.