Julio Cortez, Associated Press
Sunlight shines on a man as he reads over a sample ballot while waiting in line to cast his vote at Hoboken City Hall on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. Voting in the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history.

I was lucky Tuesday.

I did not have to wait in a long line to vote here in Virginia. I was not approached by any last-minute campaign volunteers hoping to sway my vote with a sample ballot or sign. I checked in with an election worker without any problems, and soon I was standing in a line of about six people waiting to vote.

While I waited, I observed the people around me. It was a diverse group — diverse in terms of age, race and physical appearance. One man leaned on a crutch and wore a leg brace. Some pepople waited to fill out a paper ballot, and others stood in line for the sole electronic, touch-screen ballot.

According to recent opinion polls in Virginia, as many as half of these people were casting their votes for candidates I would be voting against.

While I watched and inched closer to my voting booth, I was struck with a feeling of brotherhood toward each of the other voters. After months of partisan bickering dominating my social media feeds, news reports, and campaign commercials preceding nearly every online video I watched, all was quiet except the subtle sounds of democracy: a poll worker speaking in a barely audible baritone as voters checked in, a voter asking for assistance with his paper ballot, and a polite "Thank you" as voters received "I VOTED" stickers as they left.

Comment on this story

We all were there taking part in the same American process, a sacred right — or perhaps a rite — that was almost unheard of in all history until the United States emerged. It is a privilege for which thousands of people have given their lives to secure, defend, and extend to formerly disenfranchised peoples here in our country and abroad.

Whatever divides people in America from each other politically, we all have this in common: We all are participants in democracy. We all are a part of this great country and the political experiment that has been remarkably successful in moving forward and promoting freedom and prosperity for more than 200 years. By taking part in this common act of voting, we can remember that we are one family.

Bryan Gentry lives in Lynchburg, Va., where he writes articles for a small private college and designs freelance websites. He is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of Southern Virginia University. He blogs at http://bryangentry.us.