One morning earlier this week I was sitting on our screened in porch with my son, Gabriel. Lately, it's been slightly warmer than normal here in Virginia and this particular morning it was nice, sunny and breezy. I took the lounge seat in the corner resting Gabriel in between my propped up knees so he was facing outward with a view of the blowing trees and leaves. As he settled, he began to coo and make those lovable baby noises and sounds. He then began to turn his head slowly left then right taking in all the colors, sounds and sensations of the trees, the leaves, the birds and the breeze.
I stared at him and realized that he was watching these things for the very first time, not as clear as he will later, but still experiencing the enjoyable shapes, hues and wind. If only we could relive that moment in our lives in it's pure raw freshness, it's newness and excitement. The realization of something so intriguing and pleasurable, something as we grow we ultimately learn to call beauty.
As I thought about him taking in this experience that I will tell him about one day years from now, I thought about all the noise and ugly things in the world that he will have to see as he grows; all the hateful and terrible ways people talk to and act toward one another with such disrespect. It made me think of the upcoming elections and all the vitriol and ugliness being spewed about by candidates, pundits and supporters.
I've whispered into his little ear many times since he was born to always respect others, be good and kind to others even when they might be disrespectful to you. I will continue to remind him of this as he grows. One day he'll have the opportunity to have the special experience of casting a vote and I hope it's a pleasant experience. I can only hope that civil discourse will return to a level of respect where compromise and mediation again become tools for good and compassion.
With that in mind and election day only a week away please take a moment to check out the below list of things good for individual civic duty that I share with you from my good friend, Derek Maul. Derek writes periodically for the online site, "All Pro Dad" from which the list was originally written and subsequently shared by Derek on his blog:
Thanks Derek! I had to share.
Remember to cast your ballot next Tuesday. Peace.
10 Things to teach your kids about politics (It's possible to disagree with respect, to be wrong with integrity, and to be right with humility)
A well-known adage declares that polite conversation always steers family away from politics, religion or sex. But we say that’s bunk!
If we’re not talking about these things in our family, then our kids are most certainly having the conversation elsewhere. “Elsewhere” should never be the primary source of facts, discussion, advice and grounding when we have the opportunity to talk about important matters at home.
This time it’s politics, and it’s a subject that’s always timely. Here at All Pro Dad we don’t want you to necessarily think like us – but we do want you to think. And we want you to teach your children how important it is to replace bias, and rumor, and prejudice, and misinformation with a thoughtful look at what makes America tick politically.
The greatest enemy of freedom is a people unprepared to engage in intelligent debate and thoughtful decision-making. Don’t be that guy.
Here are 10 things we all need to think about when it comes to politics:
1. Freedom relies on widespread participation in the political process: Kids need to understand that it’s important to take part. Not voting and not thinking about politics is a decision to not value liberty.
2. The Constitution: We need to teach our children the U.S. Constitution. They need to be familiar with the contents and understand how it was written and why it gets amended.
3. An open mind is not a political affiliation! Party affiliation does not determine receptivity to new ideas. Openness to growth and learning is more of a spiritual condition. A closed mind can repel wisdom irrespective of our politics.
4. Our political preference is not a religion: Politics does not provide spiritual nurture, nor does our leaning necessarily say anything about our standing with God. The writer of the Declaration of Independence acknowledged that “The Creator” endowed us with fundamental rights, not the government, and certainly not one political party.
5. Free speech should not be a higher value than courtesy: It is important that our children understand the necessity of courtesy in political discourse. It is possible to disagree with respect, to be wrong with integrity, and to be right with humility. This is where parental modeling is of the essence.
6. It’s okay to get excited! America was born out of passionate disagreements, has been sustained by heartfelt debate, and will remain strong because of - not in spite of - sometimes over-enthusiastic differences of opinion: While #5 is true, it’s also important that our kids realize it’s Okay to be fervent in our views and to communicate our convictions with enthusiasm.
7. Children must learn to think for themselves: Too many people have given up critical analysis in favor of simply parroting other people’s opinions as their own. This is not only lazy, but dangerous. The greatest threat to democracy is a voting public – and families - who don’t think things through.
8. Listen to both sides: Teach your kids to listen to both sides of a debate and to pay attention to people they think they will disagree with. We must learn how to cultivate multiple sources when gathering information.
9. The truth can handle good questions: If children don’t understand, they should always ask. Good questions reveal truth… or the lie. Either way, good question asking is critical to a political process that works
10. People who disagree with us are not by definition un-American: We all know people who believe everyone should walk in lockstep (both in politics and in religion). We must teach our children that there is always more to learn, that people who disagree with us aren’t always wrong, and that narrow-mindedness is the shortest path to political oppression.