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Teachable Moments

September 27, 2010

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  MATT 6:21 KJV

On Thursday, Field Committee members arrived at our D.C. office to discuss ways to engage Friends in advocacy work in the coming year. They shared with me ways that people are already working in their communities to educate and excite people about Our Nation’s Checkbook. I found Tom Ewell’s story particularly compelling.

“and people thought about it, I mean they stood there and really thought about it . . . It was a teachable moment . . .”

In Washington State, Whidbey Island Fellowship of Reconciliation had a booth at a local fair which showcased federal budget spending. Featured was “The Bean Poll,” an interactive display which asked visitors to the booth to vote with their beans where they thought our money should go. Categories included health care, military, diplomacy and education. Tom commented “We gave them ten beans, and people thought about it, I mean they stood there and really thought about it — especially the young people . . . It was a teachable moment, kids would ask their parents what poverty was and they started a conversation about it.”

Starting a conversation was the goal of the booth. In a non-threatening, non-judgmental way, guests were invited to think about what was really important to them; to consider how they would spend the budget and learn how the budget was really spent. The current apportionment surprised a lot of people. Tom said, “Vets were the most passionate about the whole exercise.” They were concerned about the healthcare and benefits for vets, but also wanted to move spending back into healthcare, education and diplomacy. Tom commented that one of the most surprising things about the weekend was the way that the booth reached people. By the end of the weekend, staffers from neighboring booths that had been openly hostile were very interested in the way that the polling came out, “She said, ‘Yeah, that seems about right.’”

This is exactly the kind of tool that we should be using on the campaign. We need to draw people into the conversation about spending, especially those who have not traditionally been our partners in this. Since starting here at FCNL, I have been amazed at the enthusiasm that people have for Our Nation’s Checkbook. This really is an issue that people care about, and the time for change is now. I invite you to think about how you would apportion federal spending, and how you can provide others around you with teachable moments.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanne Baek permalink
    September 27, 2010 5:46 pm

    I am really happy that you posted about this. What a wonderful way to allow people to mull over what they would do with the nation’s money. And how lovely that it can be done without any presenting of views, etc… or maybe just handing them a flyer to take, and look at later to see where we are spencing the money. It’s really a way of opening up the opportunity to think about something (while letting their thoughts and opinions really matter). I don’t know that I will find myself in a situation where I can use this, but you’ve definitely got me thinking about it.

  2. September 28, 2010 7:18 pm

    What a great idea! I create board games to teach the positive power of peace and a teacher who used one of them for several years in his high school classes said, “The learning experience is more highly effective when it stimulates thinking in a fun way.” Your bean pole is an excellent example of that. I will recommend it to The Dayton International Peace Museum where I volunteer in children’s education. Adults can certainly use it, too!

    Frank Swift

  3. September 30, 2010 1:30 am

    I was so pleased to see the bean pole game and pictures. A positive approach and pragmatic. We read so much that is hateful, sad, silly and destructive — A whole world full of chaotic babble. Thank you FCNL for keeping caring sensibilities open.

  4. John Hurd permalink
    October 25, 2010 6:07 pm

    Genius idea. Now let’s work to “vote with our dollars” by directing our national expenditures via the 1040 form.

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