TRUTH: Grimy fingers, gratitude and the crazy importance of VOTING...

"Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate."

Yesterday afternoon, my kiddos went down the street to play at a friend's house. While the kids were playing on the trampoline, my girlfriend and I decided to join dinner-time forces. Our amazing maternal and culinary skills produced a kiddo-friendly meal of corn dogs, peanut butter sandwiches, salad, chips and cheese dip. Yeah, I know, we are the epitome of nutrition and health!! As the kids ate their supper and I feverishly threw together a "delectable delight" for my sweet husband, my attention was grabbed by the conversation taking place at the dinner table. My sweet seven year old son was saying unkind, inappropriate things. Not bad things, just not nice. So, in an attempt to regain control and make this dinner a time of learning and reflection (yes, I am a nerd), and no doubt a result of the 30 Days of Thankfulness postings I have been seeing on my social media, I engaged the four little ones in a conversation discussing gratitude.

I asked each of them to name three things they were thankful for. The responses were awesome!! Their answers ranged from being thankful for their parents, their siblings, their pets, their friends, their houses, their food, etc. We went around the table, taking turns and with each item named, the kiddos requested that they be allowed to list "just one more". Around thankful-for-item-#4, my handsome husband walked into the kitchen. As Jonathan entered the room, my friend's son, her seven year old, looked at Jonathan, pointed his grimy little finger and said, "I'm thankful for the men who fight for our country. I'm thankful for men like Mr. Jonathan." My son, who has been told age-appropriate war stories, didn't say it. My daughter, who has seen her Daddy's uniform and marched around the house in his combat boots, didn't list that. No, it was the seven year old son of a dear friend, living three doors down, who brought tears to my eyes and gave me hope last night.

I won't lie, it took everything in me not to completely lose it. I stood at the sink and just sort of stared for a moment at his sweet, innocent face. I realized in that moment that there is hope--definitely hope. I realized that my sweet friends, even in the midst of their crazy, busy lives, were raising their boys to be grateful, thankful and patriotic. I realized that our rambunctious kiddos, regardless of what our mothers think and how the children sometimes behave, that they really do listen to what we, as their parents, say. I realized in that precious moment, that there is so much to fight for, so much to protect, so much to guard--we have an example to set.

So today, we have a priceless opportunity, as freedom-loving Americans, to get out and be part of something bigger than ourselves. We have an opportunity to speak and be listened to. We have a chance to make a difference in the lives of our children and grandchildren. We have an opportunity to change our national course by electing new, strong leaders and supporting or defeating ballot propositions. We have a chance to freely vote without fear of reprisal or retribution. We can do what so many in the world can't fathom. We can be part of something that so many in the world only dream of. We can take part in a process that so many in the world envy, so many in the world desire, so many in the world fight for.

Today, we can vote. A simple act of civic duty, a national act of obedience, that so many in our nation take for granted and neglect without regard.

When I think of voting in America, I think of terms like:  responsibility, privilege, my right.

I often consider voting as a way of honoring those who have served and died for our nation and our freedoms. Admittedly, I see my voting as a way of justifying their sacrifice.

And in the spirit of honesty, many election years, especially those in most recent memory, I see casting my ballot as a way of sending a nasty, clear message to out-of-touch politicians who either don't represent my ideals or have done a poor job in doing so. Yes, I see voting as my voice.

Guys, we have a day, a moment, a season in the world in which we can accomplish good. And our choices and priorities will determine our generation's overall success. If you care about your family, if you are concerned about their futures, if you love this great nation and the appreciate the incredible hope she represents, then make today the FIRST day of your political involvement. Make today the day you stepped up and stepped out and got involved.

If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

It's time to be bold and brave and engaged. Because if you will make the choice to be part of something bigger than yourself, then, perhaps one day in the distant future, a sweet, seven year old child, with a promising future and a free life, will point their grimy little finger at you and name you and your deeds among the things for which they are grateful.

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