Environmental action in our family sputters to a halt every August and December when it’s time to buy school supplies and Christmas presents. All efforts to reuse and recycle during these two months unfailingly meet with overwhelming resistance.
Last Christmas, for example, we were discussing what to buy a niece who loves a certain brand of clothing, of which my daughter owns several pieces she has outgrown. “Why don’t we give her your shirts?” I suggested hopefully. Everyone, including my husband, looked shocked: “Not for Christmas!” I deferred to their adamant veto.
Sometimes I fret. Will our children ever understand how consumerism hurts the planet and its people? They are concrete thinkers. It’s hard for them to imagine landfills and power plants they’ve never seen. Even though we tell them that cars pollute and plastic doesn’t break down for 10,000 years, they can’t actually see these things, so their motivation to conserve resources is low. I have to admit that my speeches, no matter how satisfying they are to deliver, have not been effective.
One day my eyes fell on one of the photo-postcards a friend occasionally sends us. They always come unexpectedly, with no note, so we simply enjoy the beauty of the picture. The silent witness of the tree on this particular postcard somehow reminded me of my father, a person of deep faith who has always been a source of mystery and wonder to me.
The photograph and the memory of my father merged, and I realized I would not have been nearly so fascinated with his faith life if he had talked about it all the time, if he had narrated his life of service and prayer for us all to notice and appreciate. Instead he acted and prayed from his Christ center without a word about it to any of us. My brothers and sisters and I observed and absorbed and wondered and were fascinated by him until the day he died.
I have my answer: If my children ask me what I’m doing as I take a moment to pray an apology for the pollution I’m about to cause with my car, or why I’ve become a passionate saver of water, or why a cheap new anything holds no appeal to me, fine-I’ll tell them again. If not, I’ll trust that the spirit of God is moving in their lives as it continues to move in mine.
by Ann O’Connor, from U.S. Catholic magazine
Take a look at At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home–read a sample issue. We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides. And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.