by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

You say you never vote? Or maybe you’re too busy to take time to vote? Why should you bother? Can one vote really make a difference?

The core of democracy is the right to vote. My vote is my voice. And I am duly aware that as an American woman, my grandmother did not always have the right to vote. August 26, 2006 marked the 86th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote. So, I do take that voting right quite seriously. I honor the privilege and duty of voting.

I believe a democracy is only as strong as its citizens’ participation in it. Therefore, I believe that a democracy needs the voice of each citizen. Without the voice of every citizen, a democracy will create a governing body that is not fully representative of the citizenry. Our voice, our votes, contribute toward a democracy functioning effectively.

Still, you may be wondering how your single vote by itself can really matter that much. I have two examples to share that have taught me more about the power of “one.”

You may not take me seriously about the first example, but truly, I learn many lessons from living in the country.

My husband raises cattle, and for years our herd, especially our calves, were plagued by ceaseless attacks from coyotes and packs of wild dogs. There seemed no answer to how to protect them.

In recent years, we noticed that many of our neighboring ranchers had a donkey in the midst of their herds of cattle or sheep. And we learned this addition to their pastures was keeping out unwanted animals. So, this year my husband decided to try this solution.

A few months ago our jenny, affectionately named “Lizzie,” took on the important position of keeping our cattle safe. “Jenny,” by the way, simply means “girl donkey.”

Before Lizzie arrived on the scene, I wondered how in the world one donkey could make a difference among so many cows. But she does. Her presence has brought security and safety to our cows for the first time ever.

Lizzie is fun to watch. Now don’t laugh, but she seems very certain of her mission and purpose in our pasture. She seems confident. She has resolve. She has conviction. And she goes about her business accomplishing her duty. It doesn’t seem to daunt her in the least that she is the only one to tend to so many.

Yes, Lizzie has been teaching me the power that lies in “one.”

Another example that illustrated how each individual can make a difference was shared by our daughter. For a while, she worked as an intern in a U.S. Congressman’s office. Part of her job was processing mail and other communications from constituents. She learned that each phone call, letter and email does count — and gets counted, in fact.

In one case it seemed hopeless that anyone could help an individual who was facing what was clearly an unjust decision. But as it turned out, hundreds of people individually made the effort to let their voices be heard. Because of hundreds of compassionate actions and words, an unjust situation was reversed and corrected. This was not a case of cooperative action of a group. This was individual citizens speaking their mind one by one. But the result was an accumulated landslide of opinion.

I believe every prayer, blessing, kind word or good deed wears away unjust political, racial, social, economic and geographical distinctions. I believe every time we replace deceit with honesty, hatred with love or apathy with compassion we make way for freedom and brotherhood. And in so doing, we combat those suggestions that tell us our voice doesn’t matter, that a situation is beyond hope and that our best efforts are pointless and useless.

Yes, I’m convinced that we each do make a difference in others’ lives — in our family, in our community, in our country and ultimately, in our world. And this also translates into the power of our vote, individually and collectively.

Still don’t think your vote matters? Consider this . . . Your vote could be the one vote that makes the difference and changes the outcome of an election or decision that affects the lives of many (including yourself) for years to come.