Willing to listen, wanting to be heard | NevadaAppeal.com

Willing to listen, wanting to be heard

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Margie Benitez of Carson City talks politics with Rena Meyers in front of Smith's on Thursday. Benitez has been wearing a sandwich board for more than a month to encourage people to vote.

Rena Meyers is a girl who stops traffic.

For the last month, the 28-year-old Gardnerville woman has taken to wearing a bright yellow sandwich-board sign on her errands, reading “Young Woman Willing to Listen.”

Her hope is to encourage community members to engage her in a friendly political discussion about Tuesday’s election and ultimately to get out and vote.

Door-to-door canvassing just wasn’t getting the kind of responses she was looking for.

“People tell you really interesting stories about themselves,” she said, pushing her cart through the frozen-food aisle of a Carson City grocery store while wearing the posterboard placards. She attracted both shocked stares and smiles from shoppers and nervous scorn from the store manager.

Along with a pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (her mother is a three-time survivor), her neatly hand-lettered sign raises questions about things like lost jobs and the high cost of health-care insurance premiums in English and Spanish.

Though it’s no secret who Meyers is pulling for in the election, she wears no pro-Kerry items and doesn’t solicit votes. She’s not out to proselytize people, she says, just trying to “encourage critical thinking on the issues.”

On her way to the bank to deposit a check, three men stop her to check her out and see what she’s up to.

“Have you guys already voted?” she asks.

One of the men smells trouble. He squints to read her sign.

“You’re a Kerry girl!” he says, as though accusing her of witchcraft, quickly grabbing his buddies and pushing them aside.

Meyers calls after them to see if they want to know about early voting, but the men don’t respond.

“I always ask a lot of questions,” she said. “I want to know what people think and why they think that way. If they’re big Bush supporters, I ask them why they think Bush is a good leader. If they’re Kerry supporters, I do the same.”

“It’s mostly about getting people out to vote,” she says, flashing an all-American grin.

Carrying voter registration forms in the days before the cut-off, Meyers estimates she helped four or five dozen people register to vote, both Republicans and Democrats.

“I was really just trying to find a way to get people to participate in the process without offending them with pro-this or pro-that signs. This way, people come up to me.”

At The Crackerbox on Carson Street, she talks to a woman who has voted Republican all her life, but is supporting Kerry. She passes a few stickers to the woman and talks politics for a few moments before carrying on with her day.

Some people wear their heart on their sleeves – Meyers wears hers on a pair of yellow sandwich boards.

Contact reporter Peter Thompson at pthompson@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1215.