I think it’s fair to say I’m not the only parent who’s been thinking about what to teach my children in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s senseless, tragic death. I like iced tea and Skittles, too, and have been known to wear a hoodie in the rain. My kids aren’t old enough to drink iced tea yet, but they all think Skittles are pretty tasty, and that a hoodie in the rain’s not a bad idea, and is easier than carrying an umbrella.
While perusing the Sunday paper after Mass today, I read this column by Mr. Jesse Washington, about things he believes he will need to teach his son. There are lessons in this piece for most parents, and I found that the good Mr. Washington and I will both be instructing our children in the need to conduct and present themselves with dignity and humility. I’d like to believe that we live in a world where every parent teaches his or her children the value of those two character traits, but experience, alas, teaches me this is not so.
One of the things we strive to teach our children is that when they see something amiss, something wrong, they are to speak up and call whatever they’ve seen by its proper name. Bugaboo has a bit of a reputation at one of the local grocery stores for her comment regarding a group of teenaged girls, fresh from some sort of cheer or dance competition, all of whom were wearing spangled brassieres and hot pants. My oldest daughter looked at me, aghast, and exclaimed, “Mommy! Those girls’ mommies forgot to put clothes on them!”
Feel free to laugh. Pretty much everyone who was in Wegmans that afternoon did, with the exception of the girls’ parents. We are still working on how to point out inappropriate things without being rude.
That said, I’m making a little change in our lesson plans tomorrow. We’ve been working our way through the Stations of the Cross, and talking about things we can do to walk more closely in friendship with Him who suffered unjust persecution and death, all so that we might be freed from sin. Tomorrow, though, we’re going to read Matthew 22:39, and use it as our memory verse. If you’re not familiar with the verse, it’s the one that says, “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
There are certain subjects that are very, very tough when talking to very young children. The ways people have developed to excuse treating each other cruelly are among those, but, as with any important topic, we want to start early. We are raising children who love fiercely enough to question a friend, a sibling, a parent, or even a total stranger when they observe a behavior that they know to be contrary to Christ’s teachings. Responding to a person whose skin or hair differs from their own with fear and suspicion, based solely on those phenotypic characteristics, is a monumental sin. Galatians 3 is EXTREMELY clear on this point, and this will likely be part of our lesson tomorrow as well, as 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I would have our children grow up without Peter’s fear. I do not want them to have to listen, metaphorically, for the cock to crow on a day in which one of their brethren is condemned unjustly. Because of this, I will teach my children that among those behaviors a friend of Christ condemns is suspicion of a person based solely on the color of his or her skin.
I want my kids to ask, “What did he do wrong?” when they hear someone speak harshly about another person. Then I want them to explain, with great love and tenderness, that Jesus, on the cross, did not have a checklist of desirable “racial” groups, and nor should followers of Christ.
Today’s prayer: Lord, in Your wisdom, You made Your children in all sizes and colors, no two with precisely the same appearance or set of talents. Thank you for the never-repeating diversity of our human family, which teaches us that since we are ALL made in Your image, we cannot begin to comprehend what Your face looks like. Your blessings cherish all of their friends, and so far, it’s never occurred to them that any kid is disqualified from being their friend because of his or her ancestry. Help me teach Your blessings that it is pleasing to You to love all of their neighbors as themselves, and even more pleasing when they speak in defense of those who are unjustly accused. Grant them, and me, the courage to speak hard truths lovingly, without rancor, and without compromise.