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Robert's Rules in Real Life

The Elf Barn and Robert's Rules of Order

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This week I had the pleasure of helping three young ones set up the “Elf Barn.” 

This Macfarlane family tradition is a Fischer-Price toy structure that we adorn with elves, angels, toys, animals and miscellaneous figures. It began with a charming set of pipe-cleaner elves made by my mother-in law perhaps 60 years ago. A ghostly Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Noah under an umbrella with his animals, a hot-air balloon, grand piano and a computer have become part of the scene – all more or less to scale. I feel a particular fondness for the tiny angel band I bought in Munich with my then-fiancé Lew, too many years ago to count.

Each type of figure aroused a different passion in each child, so we quickly established rules of order. You can collect the animals, you collect the people, you collect the presents and toys. Each child may place one figure in turn, one after another. Unanimous consent allowed a few variations – you can place a heap of presents (defined as four) and you can place the whole angel band, since they so clearly belong together. And afterwards – no changes allowed unless there is a quorum in agreement.

Is it a stretch to call these simple guidelines “rules of order”? I don’t think so. Human nature being what it is, and human feelings being what they are, coming to agreement about how we will conduct any human activity is necessary if we are all to be full participants. The alternative is authoritarianism, brute force, and unhappiness. As our readers know, I believe that Robert’s Rules of Order, properly used, add greatly to the sum of human happiness and efficiency. There is a continuum from hearth and home, and the charity that begins at home, to the governmental and nonprofit activities that support and sustain all of us in our individual lives within society.

Samuel Johnson said once that the whole purpose of government is to enable us to be happy at home. However you define your home, and wherever it may be, may this season bring you happiness and peace.

Ann G. Macfarlane, Professional Registered Parliamentarian

(c) Jurassic Parliament 2014. All rights reserved.