The other day someone gave me an old cigar case, after the person went in search of a book they’d recommended on buffalo hunters, but couldn’t find the spare copy. “Come back in a week or two and I’ll give you the one I’m reading now,” they said. “In the meantime, maybe you could use this.”
One street over, the 93-year-old woman who gave me $40 in cash for my campaign said she just loved seeing young people getting involved in politics. Campaign donations are public record so I can tell you that her name is Catherine Michunovich and her husband was a councilperson years ago. A small, framed photo of him sat on the table by her chair. “I like your ideas and I want to support your campaign, but I’m 93 and I might not remember later.” She winked as she stood, grabbed her walker. “Hold on.” She made her way down the hall to her bedroom where I could hear her rummaging around. A few minutes later she came back with two crumpled twenties that she pressed into my hand. “It’s all I have on me right now,” she said. No one has ever done this before and I was so touched I murmured my thank you’s while backing ceremoniously out of the door. Down the steps and across the lawn to the next house where I rang the bell and a woman answered saying, “My sister just called to say you were headed over and that I’m supposed to be nice to you.”
“How long have you lived so close?” I asked.
“Oh”—wave of hand—”maybe 20 or 30 years.”
I meet a lot of people who’ve lived in the neighborhood that long. Thirty, forty years. For a long time I’ve been mulling over Yellowstone County’s aging population problem, and while intellectually I’ve known this was a big issue, never has it seemed more stark than while going door to door. I find myself propelled by a new sense of urgency, and I think that’s also part of the reason a 93-year-old woman would donate cash to a relative stranger, and the reason someone gave me “Pope Joan,” and the reason I’m now the proud owner of a vintage cigar box. Because the people who can best address this crisis are those of us under 40 right now, and we’re wildly unrepresented on the council.
As I head out to knock a new street this morning I feel a bit like a video game character who keeps accumulating supplies. Me and my backpack, water bottle, and all the accoutrements I’ve picked up along the road. Onward, always onward, we go.