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Are You Ready to Vote?
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

A Little Help
Be Prepared
For Teens: Speak Up
For Kids: Take a Vote




“Who are you going to vote for, Mom?”

I suspected that my nine-year-old daughter, Maddie, would ask me this question sooner or later. I was just hoping it would be later. But then again I should have expected it. Maddie has always been one of those kids who asks “Why?” when I wish she didn’t, and never has accepted things “just because” or “because I said so.”

So I told her who I was planning to vote for and my reasons for that decision. But then I turned the tables.

“Who would you vote for if you could?” I asked. “And why?”

The ensuing conversation was both enlightening and disheartening. I was amazed by her grasp of some of the issues, but disheartened at some of the things she told me she had heard from classmates.

After a lengthy discussion, I came away with a reminder to jump at these teaching moments as they come up, because if my husband, Mark, and I don’t, someone else will. And as much as we don’t like to admit it—at least in front of our kids—Mark and I don’t have all the answers. We’re always open to any help we can get from grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends or professionals. The key, then, is to take that advice and funnel it in a way that we think is best for our kids.

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A Little Help

When it comes to the topic of politics and religion, we are grateful to have some help from the U.S. bishops. Every four years they try to take some of the pressure off us by preparing a document addressing some of the moral issues involved in political choices. This document looks at many of the issues facing voters, in light of our faith, to consider before we step into the voting booth next month. What it does not do is tell people who to vote for.

The bonus is that it also helps Mark and me prepare for casting our own votes.

With the election coming up, here are some things to think about:

Take a look. Read over Faithful Citizenship. It’s available at www.faithfulcitizenship.org. This site also has ideas for ways that families and other groups can use and discuss the document.

You might consider convening a group of friends, parishioners, etc., to discuss the document and bounce questions off each other. Invite your parish priest. And remember to establish from the beginning that this is an informative session, not a debate.

Listen. My youngest daughter, Riley, hates to be wrong. She gets embarrassed and angry. Sometimes she’ll cover her eyes or stubbornly cross her arms and loudly say, “Don’t say that.” My point is, no one likes to be called on the carpet or told they’re wrong. And so we tend to lash out, dig our heels in the sand or refuse to listen.

Considering other points of view doesn’t mean you will change your mind, but it could offer you a different perspective.

Be nice. How often do we say this to our kids when they’re playing together? But how often do we follow our own advice? For instance, shortly after the funeral of NBC’s Tim Russert, I heard people on several news programs lament how nasty and divisive all political coverage had become. Unfortunately, the cease-fire that resulted lasted only about a week, and then it was back to business as usual.

As most of us know, the two things people become most passionate about are politics and religion. If we could remember to be nice to one another, perhaps we could have more productive discussions.

Talk, talk, talk. I can remember sitting at our kitchen table with my dad, asking him questions about all things political. One thing I’m amazed by as I look back was his ability to lay out the issues without simply reciting his take on things. Sure, he offered his opinion when I asked, but he strongly encouraged me to look at issues from all angles and then come to my own conclusion. Talk to your kids about the election and the issues surrounding it. What do they think? What concerns them? What is their take on certain issues?

Vote. The best thing we can all do in order to be heard is to get out and vote.

 

Think that just because you’re not old enough to vote you have no say in elections? Not so. There are a number of issues surrounding elections that may be close to your heart and your life. You can become involved in the political process by identifying those issues and finding ways that you and your friends can address them.

For instance, what are some of the education issues facing our country? As a student, you should be aware of these issues. What about pro-life issues? Or national security? Or environmental/energy issues? These are all things that affect you. And while you may not be able to vote, you certainly can make your voice heard.

Gather your friends and come up with a plan of action. What issues are you going to address? Use the Internet to find the addresses of your elected officials. Then launch a letter-writing or e-mail campaign or make phone calls to the offices of your elected officials concerning issues about which you care. You can also volunteer for the campaign of a favorite candidate.

Whenever my family goes out to eat, it seems that we all have different ideas of where to go. One way we have found to solve this is by writing down some choices and then taking a vote. You can do this for any number of things with your family, such as what to have for dessert, what movie to watch, what game to play or even where to go on vacation. Taking a vote on things makes everyone feel like they’ve been heard.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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