We can all probably recall a time when we first noticed an ant trail marching back to its colony. And perhaps how we fought the temptation to stomp on a few, just to see what would happen. It is human nature to ponder the frailty of life, and also how it can persist against all odds.
It was one such moment like this that I taught our eldest son his first lesson on respecting life. We were walking with friends and we happened across a preying mantis. After much oohing and ahhing and picture -taking, no one realized that my toddler was about to stomp on the unsuspecting preying mantis. We didn’t catch him in time and he did stomp on the bug. Fortunately it scuttled off looking no worse for the wear. No bugs were harmed in the making of this story. But the incident presented a teachable moment. We talked about how we would never hurt something unless we were trying to keep ourselves safe (or if we needed to hunt for food). Now as our young sons begin to practice martial arts, that’s a lesson that is repeated in many different ways each day in our home and in our conversations.
The little things can become the big things.
As our children grow, the issues we face as a family are changing. We still talk about being nice to bugs, but the respect for life mentality has developed into discussions of how to treat people who are different from us at school, to why we seek to buy goods and services that support fair trade practices. Our children are not yet at an age where we discuss current news events, and issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment and embryonic stem cell research, but we know the time will come. We also know that we have no guarantees that our children will always make the wisest choices, but we know our duty is to equip them to do their very best.
As parents we are our children’s first and most important teachers. What we underscore in our homes, they will carry with them in their hearts. It is never too late to step in as a parent to initiate these discussions. The Advent challenge I pose for us all is to discuss one of these topics with our children today, or to choose a family activity which especially inspires a culture of life.
– Create an album of ultrasound pictures from your pregnancies, or take out your children’s baby books while they are still young and impress upon them how sacred their own life is and how much they are loved.
– Life is a gift from God to be cherished. Let our children hear us give praise to those who work each day to protect, defend and improve life for others.
-Remind our children that their bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.
– Teach our kids that every person has value and God-given dignity, regardless of how people appear or what they do. We are all made in God’s image.
– Show respect to the elderly, encourage children to care for the elderly members of your family in small ways.
-Ask your child to have the courage to reach out to a student that seems lonely, or picked on, and show kindness.
– Be mindful as a parent and monitor inappropriate and violent media. Listen to your instincts and act on them.
– Collect baby items or clothes to deliver to a ministry for unwed mothers/pregnancy outreach center.
– Visit an animal shelter and help feed the animals or take them for walks.
Let us pray that as a nation, we can encourage each other to work together to form children who are sensitive to life at all stages. And may we never doubt that our words and actions, as parents and teachers, make the most profound impact on our children.
“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally prolife: who will acclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.”
Pope John Paul II