Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Raising Good Citizens

In honor of Independence Day I thought I would share some ideas for creating a spirit of good citizenship in our children. Our faith calls us to active participation in our communities; the Bishops explain civic involvement and participation in the political process as a moral obligation. If parents take on the responsibility of active citizenship, then we can transmit this way of living to our children.

VOTING Voting is a responsibility of all of us living in our free country. The opportunity to vote for our representatives in government is a foundation of our democracy. I do not just mean voting in the presidential elections every four years, I'm talking about voting every time the polls are open. We should be voting in every primary election, each community referendum, state-wide elections, county elections, in city and school board elections. We are to make educated votes too. This requires us to research and learn and talk to others and pray. This is active, responsible citizenship, and it is not always simple or easy. However, it is a duty, even a Catholic duty. Your kids will get involved and interested as you do. They will learn much from hearing the give and take and debate regarding candidates and issues, and they will see your commitment as you take them to the polls.

EDUCATION It is every citizens' responsibility to be educated regarding local and national and international issues. No, we don't have to know every detail, but we must have a working knowledge of what is going on in our local communities and the world. Most of us have some awareness of what goes on at a national level, but do you know on a day to day basis what decisions your local school board is making? Are you aware of your city and county governments' activities? How about at the state level, do you keep yourself informed? It is important also, to not just find information sources that are within your comfort zone, or that just bolster your already formed opinions. How often to you look at news through the lens of "the other side." You will learn a lot if you make this a habit. One key to being truly informed is to eschew television news sources as a primary means of information, including network news, and shows like MS NBC and FOX news --- really, it is mostly sensationalist trash with a few newsworthy items thrown in to make you feel good. Be truly informed --- READ. A good place for kids to learn about current events is through God's World Publications. They put out a weekly news magazine for kids of all ages, from pre-school through high-school. Sometimes, their news weekly for adults is a bit partisan and protestant for me, but it's nice to read something outside the mainstream.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Get yourself and your kids involved in the local community. Specifically, teach your children Catholic social doctrine, post the corporal works of mercy on the fridge, learn where the local soup kitchen, food pantry, and clothing ministries are located, and volunteer. Our children have been involved in varying capacities in these local programs. We spent one year doing monthly food collection in our neighborhood. The kids would leave a note that we were collecting food for the food pantry, and ask for a donation to be left on their doorstep a few days later. We collected hundreds of pounds of food this way. The kids did most of the work and they really enjoyed it. Now they are working for another ministry that aids the home bound.

The idea is to resist cynicism, work against apathy, and realize that we are all responsible to make our communities, our nation, and our world a better place, and there are tangible ways for us and our children to be involved.

Peace, Hope