2012 was a hard year. In fact it was one of several.

My sister required surgery for cancer. (Fortunately, she’s doing very well.) My dad’s dementia had reached a point that made it necessary for my parents to moved in with her the month before. Now, during her recovery, my father had medical appointments of his own. After spending a few days with her, I drove him the five hours back to his old hometown.

We were there over election day, and in a rare state of lucidity my dad wanted, for the 16th time in his life, to cast his vote for president. Frankly, I wasn’t sure he could pull it off. I asked him if he knew who was running. He couldn’t remember their names, but he described the candidates and what they stood for. I asked if he’d decided who he preferred, and he stated most emphatically who he did NOT prefer. 😉 So we went to his local voting station. I learned that I could accompany him to the booth and “assist”, but that I could not coach him or exert influence. (Since I’d seen a health care provider do exactly that with several mentally challenged adults in her care at early voting, I was relieved to learn that at least what she did was illegal.) I helped Daddy get his ballot set up and read him each option, then pointed to the name of the candidate he chose. He did the rest.

I was very proud of him, and I was glad we could share that.

It reminded me how, for years, I’d taken my children with me to the voting booth. We passionately discussed the issues at stake. I felt then, and I still feel now, that this was one of the most important things I could do in shaping good citizens. Here’s why.

The right to influence one’s culture for the Lord is a fragile gift. I wanted my children to see that, however busy I might be with other things, this was important enough to schedule.

I wanted them to “get” that our faith should affect all of life.

I wanted them to watch how mature Christian adults thought through “secular” issues to discern what would be pleasing to God.

I wanted them to see how easy the process is.

And I wanted to point out to them how very few people actually care enough to take the time to educate themselves.

If you haven’t become involved in our representative process (beyond groaning at the latest outrage reported on social media), I’d urge you to look into the issues and allow your children to observe how that process plays out in your life. As parents, as with runners in a race, we have a few key moments when we “pass the baton” to the next generation–handing off to them our faith, culture, and convictions. We don’t actually have to say a lot, but our integrity is on clear display. At these moments more is “caught” than “taught”, and the experience can become a powerful metaphor that shapes the adults your children will become.