Thursday, November 04, 2004

Vote early, vote often...

Today for history class, the kids and I discussed the election. We talked about what it means to vote, what effect it has on ourselves and on our world. We talked about how our nation has so much power in the world. Recently, I heard someone say that when the United States sneezes, all of Central and South America get pneumonia. With the outcome of this week’s election being announced in cities and hamlets around the globe, we considered the ramifications of how we live, how we vote, and how our nation acts in the world. I pointed out that we only vote for the President every four years. There are smaller, less monumental elections held every two years and even more locally pertinent votes more frequently than that. Then I challenged them with the notion that we vote for some things every day. Every day we vote on how we will spend our time, our money, and our energy. Will we read quietly at Caribou Coffee after breakfast, write haiku, practice Spanish, and pick out fruit, vegetables, and Pringles (we don’t always eat organic…) at the supermarket – all of which we did today? Or will we vote to spend our time watching television reruns, playing computer games, and eating Halloween candy? Will we vote for order or disorder in our home by doing our daily chores or make another unholy mess in the family room? Will we vote for increased consumerism and debt by heading off to Target in pursuit of more stuff or will we vote for our two sponsor children, Alexander and Sebenele - from Honduras and Swaziland respectively – by putting those same $25 in a jar to send Christmas presents to them later this month? My kids are like most others; Target was far more attractive. But I suggested that perhaps the long-term benefit of saving a few dollars here and there and sending them to a friend or a cousin or someone farther away who is in need would outweigh the instant and often temporary gratification of yet another Barbie doll or baseball bat. We figured out that the $55 we spent last Saturday going out to lunch on Kristiana’s 11th birthday was almost enough to cover the entire monthly contribution for Alexander and Sebenele; each of them require only $30 every 30 days to cover food, school, and other expenses. Both Kristiana and Daniel blanched at that news. We voted with our time, money, and energy two Sundays ago by taking two small boxes filled with small gifts for a small child in some far away place and depositing them in a growing pile of other Samaritan’s Purse Christmas boxes being collected at our church. We were saddened and gratified to discover that some boxes distributed by that same program last year wound up in the hands of several of the children who died in that horrible school hostage situation in Russia a few weeks ago. We voted with our money and our time when we filled two bags of groceries for the family of the ten year old leukemia victim my daughter knows. We will vote with our time by getting up early on Thanksgiving morning to cook, package, and deliver meals to less fortunate people here in Charlotte. We vote with our lives by being reliable, generous, forgiving children, parents, siblings, friends, and citizens of our planet. I suspect that some of my philosophical, metaphorical lecture was lost on my two favorite students this morning, but I have no doubt that this is yet another link in the chain I am fashioning around my children. Yes, I am fashioning a chain around my children, a chain that I hope will bind them to each other in a lifetime sibling love affair; I am grateful that sibling rivalry has not yet reared its ugly head in our home. I am fashioning a chain around their hearts, a chain that will bind them not only to each other, but also to their cousins, their friends, their neighbors, and even to Sebenele and Alexander whose photos smile down at us every time we open the refrigerator. I am fashioning a chain that will bind us to the polling place of our hearts, where we will vote daily for peace, for gentleness, for love, for generosity of spirit and of wallet, and for mindful living in a mindless society. Earlier this week, my children advised me to vote more than once in the Presidential election. At the time I laughed and told them I wished I could, and then it occurred to me as I planned for today’s history lesson: In and with our lives, we get to vote early, and we get to vote often.

No comments: