I just returned from voting. As I planned my day today, I pondered why it is that I put voting on the top of my To-Do List for the day. In reality, when my husband and I both vote, we usually cancel each other's vote...not always, but more times than not I vote Democrat (one of these days, I will post a blog entry to tell you why) and he votes Republican. During the presidential elections in 2004, we were at Disney World on election day. As we obviously knew we would be gone well in advance of that day, we both made a special effort to cast our absentee ballot to make sure our vote was counted. That day, as I stood in line, I found it interesting that I would choose to spend my time casting my vote for a Democrat when Virginia hadn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson 40 years ago...clearly, my vote would mean nothing when those states began to turn red and blue. How much does my individual vote really matter? Would my time be better spent elsewhere?
While I believe that it is my responsibility as a citizen to vote, I think the real reason I vote is this: I don't believe that I have the right to complain, the right to criticize, the right to demand better, if I am not a part of the process. I vote so that I have the right to comment. I vote because I want to be a part of the solution, not just the one who points out the problem. I think it is increasingly common in our society to complain about things we don't like, without ever offering a solution to change it. We point our finger at the things that "those" people are doing wrong, yet choose to not get involved in doing it better. A lot of people have gotten cynical about the way our government functions, so they just check out of the process by not voting. I have seen the same phenomenon in my kids' school and sadly, in the church. In one of my previous posts, I talked about Rosa Parks seizing her divine moment that day that she refused to give up her seat on the bus. While voting for our next governor or volunteering in my child's classroom or serving on a commitee at church are hardly the same thing, there is a similar component. Until I am fully in the process..until I invest something of myself in making a change...I don't have the right to criticize how other people are governing, teaching, or serving. We all have a responsibility to get involved, to vote our conscience, to get our hands dirty, to work together for a common goal...only then have we earned the right to complain when it isn't right, to demand better for our children, to push for the changes that need to be made, to propose a better way. And, as a parent, I want my children to believe that their input, their involvement, their effort....eventually their vote, does make a difference and does matter.
We had a wonderful missionary speak at church on Sunday who shared a powerful message about our responsibility as Christians to "get our hands dirty" in the work of Jesus Christ. My girls were quite moved by his story, but later commented that he made them uncomfortable as well. One of them said, "I think he was trying to make us feel guilty." That comment led to a conversation about feeling guilty and being inspired to make a change. I know his words certainly convicted me, but isn't that really what we need sometimes? A kick in the butt that says "get involved" or maybe "don't just sit there, do something!" There are so many ways we can get involved and make a difference in the world around us and I know that I personally let most of those opportunities pass me by. When we sit complacently waiting for the "right" way to serve or the perfect opportunity to share God's love with someone, we sometimes get paralyzed by our indecision and do nothing at all. We have talked before about just jumping in and doing the next right thing. Today, for me and for many of you, the next right thing was to vote. While there is so much more for us to do, voting is an important first step. Good for us!!