Bridging the political divide with a small act of kindness 

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  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers greet each other over coffee at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday, November 6, 2020. A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers even when they supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers greet each other over coffee at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday. A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers, who supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers met for a second time to pose for a portrait at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers greet each other over coffee at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday, November 6, 2020. A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers even when they supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers greet each other over coffee at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday, November 6, 2020. A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers even when they supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers even when they supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers greet each other over coffee at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday, November 6, 2020. A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers even when they supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers greet each other over coffee at Kelly’s home in Chichester on Friday, November 6, 2020. A chance meeting at the Chichester polls on Tuesday and simple acts of kindness have led to a bond between Sally Kelly and Christian Ayers even when they supported different candidates. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/6/2020 5:48:30 PM

Sally Kelly, a prominent Democrat in town, gathered with her left-leaning, sign-carrying friends on Election Day at Chichester Central School.

A young man exiting the polls approached, cutting through the wind as he headed to the parking lot. He wore a camouflaged TRUMP 2020 mask. Kelly was awash in Biden blue.

A perfect time, she thought, to extend an olive branch, show a sense of unity, close the book on a campaign season that cracked the nation. Not to mention it offered Kelly an opportunity to take the high road, show the other side the proper way to behave during the climax of a heated battle.

“Thanks for voting,” Kelly said.

The man acknowledged the gesture, walked 15 feet, turned, walked back and topped Kelly’s gesture. “Can I get you some coffee?” he asked the three women. “You look cold.”

Kelly, a former state rep, said the clouds didn’t suddenly part. There were no trumpets playing, or angels flying. Hell did not freeze over.

But the young man, Christian Ayers, meant it, and Kelly held on to it. Brought it home, in fact. Even lost sleep thinking about it.

“I cannot tell you how many times I thought about what happened,” Kelly told me by phone. “I thought about that until 3 in the morning. He became very serious and he said he really wanted to get us a cup, and it was cold and he said we were doing a good thing.”

The simplicity combined with the profound impact worked magic. Kelly went on Facebook to write about it, almost as soon as she got home. She wrote this: “As I thanked people for voting, I thanked a man with a TRUMP mask. He was taken aback. He returned a few minutes later and offered to get coffee for us all. That’s democracy. That is America.”

Then, completely independent of her post, at a time when she hadn’t yet attached a name to the coffee, she read this post: “So I went and voted today. I just have to say I had such a nice experience, there was a group of people who supported Biden outside and they were very kind to me, I had a Trump mask on so they knew who I was voting for but they cheerfully said, ‘Thank you for voting.’ ”

Ayers is 23. He graduated from Bedford High School and moved to Chichester six years ago. He works on his aunt’s farm during the day, tending to cows and pigs and turkeys and donkeys. He cooks at a local restaurant at night.

He voted for Hillary Clinton four years ago, but has since followed the teachings of Jesus, and therefore his pro-life stance is the building block of his political beliefs.

He admired Trump’s effort to fight human sex trafficking as well. He was excited Kelly had called the media. He wanted to talk about looking past politics, at something deeper.

“I’d rather love thy neighbor than divide thy neighbor,” Ayers said by phone. “If we don’t show more unity, we could go down a bad road. But if it does go down a worse road, I would not point fingers.”

He proved that to the three women who might have had a preconceived notion about Ayers, before he turned the tables on Kelly and trumped her kindness.

Kelly served in the state Legislature for six years. Her partners in sign were Dianne Schuett, a Democrat from Pembroke, and Gloria Andrews, a self-proclaimed liberal whose political nostalgia spilled out quickly.

“Obama, I missed him so much when he was giving those speeches for Joe (Biden),” Andrews said by phone. “He knows how to motivate people. You think when he was in office and it was so much better.”

Then this guy with a Trump mask entered her life.

“He was the only guy with a 2020 Trump mask,” Andrews said. “He came back and asked if he could get coffee. I could not believe anyone would do that, but especially with a 2020 Trump mask on. He was super nice, and it was a highlight and it gives you hope for the future. A little bit, anyway.”

We all know this is a cease fire of some kind, not a peace treaty. It’s been ugly for four years, it’s ugly as we speak and it will be ugly again soon.

But call this a moment. No photos or footage of it, but a moment nonetheless. The women, it turned out, preferred tea. They didn’t accept the stranger’s offer.

They got to know the stranger, instead. And the other way around.

“I offered to get them some Dunks, and we just treated each other like humans and it was great,” Ayers wrote on Facebook.

“His mask made me crazy,” Kelly admitted on the phone. “But his mask was not who he was. He was hope for the future.”




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