When I first heard about Bridging the Gap (BTG) I had never had any experience with canvassing, let alone deep canvassing which involves longer conversations with voters about challenging subjects.
When I think about approaching strangers to have a conversation I feel a mix of nerves and anxiety, and broaching important conversations can be a difficult task to approach. So, a training revolving around how exactly to handle serious conversations with empathy was scary to me, but I wanted to take on the challenge with an open mind and I was looking forward to developing skills that would ease my nerves.
As the first night of BTG began, I felt immediately welcomed by Katie and Jillian, the organizers leading the night’s training. We began by watching a video showing deep canvassing in real life, and it demystified the entire concept for me. I could immediately tell how powerful a tool this was.
Throughout the training, we watched different video examples of deep canvassing, and the conversations that voters and canvassers shared were moving. I witnessed folks with apparently different views on abortion find common ground through sharing stories about their loved ones. I saw compassion grow over the course of conversations as walls came down between two strangers as they spoke with one another. The impact was clear to me: deep canvassing allows individuals to feel heard and validated and fosters conversations that have the power to help folks relate with one another on a deep level.
With my new understanding of deep canvassing and its impact, my anxiety about starting these conversations is still there – this kind of work is challenging! But, the jitters are accompanied by an excitement for the power that one empathetic and intentional conversation can have. I led my first ever canvass on April 9th in Lewiston, Maine. With the support of my Planned Parenthood colleagues and the BTG training academy under my belt, I was able to take what I learned and use it while knocking on doors. Canvassing was exciting, challenging, and rewarding. I was pleasantly surprised with how open folks were to talking with me about abortion and how I was able to find common ground with strangers. I put my BTG skills to work, and had powerful and empathetic conversations.
If you'd like to get involved with the Bridging the Gap program, join one of our community nights or a training or sign up to be a driver or volunteer for a canvass
Clare Trinity is a junior at Bates College studying environmental studies and education and an intern at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.