I worry about this. I worry about this a lot. The future is uncertain and the world is changing too fast. It’s hard to keep up. Nobody teaches you how to be a parent, it is a learn-as-you-go kind of job. Unfortunately, this means you will make mistakes. Mistakes! We are talking about tiny human beings here, so mistakes are inevitably painful.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Bishop Vann, the Shepherd of the Diocese of Orange, CA. I work part time at a Church coordinating Faith Formation for preschool children, and the Bishop was visiting our Parish. We had a brief staff meeting where the Bishop spoke a little bit about his background and his vision for the Diocese. At the end of the meeting we were given the chance to ask him questions. I immediately regretted not preparing myself better for the meeting. I felt like I had to ask him a question! When was I going to get another time to ask a Bishop a question? My mind was blank. Suddenly it came to me and I asked him, “Your Excellency, how can we better prepare our children to face the challenges of an increasingly secular world? His answer was short. He said, ” Just keep reinforcing their faith. The truths of our faith do not change, even if the world does. However, it is important that we explain appropriately, according to the child’s age, what those challenges might be.” Such a short, but powerful answer.
For me, truth is what I believe as a Catholic, but to you it might mean something different. Regardless of what we consider to be our truth, there are certain universal values that we should all have in common. In the Church those values are known as natural law. Natural law is: ” a universal moral law written and engraved in the soul of every man” (CCC 1954). We can see evidence of this law more vividly in children. Have you ever wondered how children know that lying is wrong, even if they have never been taught so? They just know, you can see it in their guilty faces, it is written in their hearts. It is these universal values, despite religion, that we should be teaching our children. I consider some of these values to be truth, justice, humility, respect for oneself and others, self-control, responsibility, love, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness.
Coincidentally that same week I discovered this Bible verse: “Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it” (Prv 22:6). After reading this it all became clear. I need to stop worrying about the future and think about what I am teaching the children in my life now, and continue to teach even if it seems they do not listen. Most importantly I need to teach with my own actions, not only with words. It is like this quote from Robert Fulghum says, ” Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”