With one of our Cub dads running for public office, my Scouts were actually cognizant of the ramifications of election day and proved eager learners.
For the first time — and at random times — while driving by campaign signage, I had compelling conversations with my 9-year-old son about local and national politics, parties, referendums and initiatives. He was eager to know why I should vote "yes" for this or "no" for that.
He listened with interest when adults conversing around him had opinions on health care, tea parties and wolf management. His comments told me he realized the power of one person to shape our future as well as our day-to-day living.
My husband and I happened to arrive in San Antonio for a business conference on the same day Glenn Beck hosted his first tea party outside our hotel window. I marveled at his rallied support much as I marveled the day President Obama was surrounded by weeping and cheering throngs when accepting his new post.
The freedom Americans have to ride the tide of support wherever they choose with such power and pomp is both inspiring and frightening.
While most would consider themselves true patriots, most don't walk around with an American flag sewed on their shirt. So it's important Cub Scouts realize, even at this young age, the importance of patriotism, civic duty, leadership and character.
As Mormon Cub Scouts, the boys also have faith-driven motives to be patriotic. The 12th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law."
Participation in elections is a consistent opportunity for us to do what we believe.
So while on other business at our county building, I happened to ask our clerk and recorder if my Cub Scouts could participate in the election process in any way. After obtaining permission from the state election office, she invited our Cub Scouts to take a post at the polls handing out "I Voted Today" stickers.
Tuesday after school, my boys and I walked from the elementary school to the high school where several precincts offered ballots in the gymnasium. Not only was it a perfect autumn afternoon to shuffle down the sidewalk in ankle-deep trails of golden leaves, it expended pent-up boyhood energy so they could exhibit best behavior for the election judge.
We paused outside the school doors to button uniforms, straighten kerchiefs and eat a snack. I answered questions about elections, campaigns and fliers distributed by nearby lobbyists. I gave them stern instructions to smile and be pleasant.
Inside the building, we were welcomed with awe and appreciation.
"We've never had Scouts help us before," we heard over and over.
But to me, nothing looked more natural than uniformed Scouts mingling among the busy business of shaping our nation.
Each boy was given a post next to the tally machines with a sheet of stickers. When a voter emerged from his booth, he slid his pencil-marked ballot into the machine and received a sticker from a Cub Scout. The interaction was especially exciting when a teacher or ward member came through their line.
I watched from a distance and saw each boy making conversation with the other election volunteers.
"All the girls loved me," said one boy referring to the table of women who appeared eligible for senior discounts at a restaurant.
"One thought my cheek was very soft," said a blushing Scout who more than once received a pinch and a squeeze.
"I had to help some people put their paper in straight," said another boy. And they all knew the exact number of ballots that had been processed through their precinct.Comment on this story
The time went fast and soon parents were arriving to vote and pick up their boy. Most Scouts were resistant to leave, which impressed me as well as the other volunteers.
We walked outside together and right before the parking lot, a Scout found a sticker on the sidewalk. They all exclaimed disgust and seemed generally offended as one boy peeled up the sticker and put it in the garbage.
"They're supposed to be proud they voted," one boy said.
It's a sentiment I hope they never forget.