Gazing through the lens of gratitude, I began to appreciate the scene around me… I felt grateful for the chance to vote in peace.

Here in our Stories of Grateful Living, we honor the voices of our community as we invite people to share their personal experiences with gratefulness. Join us in appreciating the explorations, reflections, and insights of fellow community members as we collectively learn what it means to live gratefully.


Toni’s Story

Australian flag. Photo by Pam MacDonald

According to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, only 13 percent of the world’s countries have compulsory voting. Australia is one of them.

Recently, I voted in a state election. It was mandatory. The nearest polling booth was a local school whose gymnasium had been transformed into a temporary voting center. I arrived early in the morning hoping to avoid a crowd. Not yet 9 a.m., a long line snaked around the school’s basketball court. The atmosphere resembled a fair: a cheerful woman was selling ice blocks; a sausage sizzle was drawing a crowd of children and adults alike; two young boys, bored from standing in a line that was barely moving, chased each other around the grounds.

This scene is in stark contrast to other parts of the world where daring to vote is an act of bravery.

The candidates of the two major political parties – the Labor Party and Liberal Party – were busy handing out “‘how to vote”’ cards. I smiled politely at both of them as I declined their party-related materials. A federal Labor senator arrived to support her South Australian colleague. The media swarmed around the senator as she made a comment. To get a better shot, the camera man swerved around a sign which read: “The Liberal Party has reduced funding to this school by $400, 000.”

This scene is in stark contrast to other parts of the world where daring to vote is an act of bravery. In 2017, elections in Kenya and Papua New Guinea were fraught with violence. In both countries, people died as a result of election-based violence.

With such freedoms come responsibilities: Am I living up to my responsibilities? Am I adequately serving the community?

Gazing through the lens of gratitude, I began to appreciate the scene around me. While waiting in line for more than an hour and fighting off party-related materials was tedious, I felt grateful for the chance to vote in peace. I live in a country where I have the right to freedom of speech; the right to take part in protests and express dissent against political figures without fear of reprisal; and the right to freedom of movement. With such freedoms come responsibilities: Am I living up to my responsibilities? Am I adequately serving the community? I felt grateful for these questions too.


We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”

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Toni Palombi

Toni Palombi

About the author
Toni Palombi is an editor and writer. She has worked with international charities in Australia, Asia, and the Middle East.