I had a disturbing conversation with another parent this week. Not earth-shattering or disillusioning, for I have unfortunately had those reactions to eerily similar conversations in days gone by. I’m older now – turning 40! – and have already had ample opportunity to realize that I may have in fact been a bit naïve when I was younger.
I still haven’t mentioned what troubled me. It is not important, inasmuch as you may have had different conversations that have troubled you, leaving you with the hollow awareness that the person with whom you were talking does not dream of the same world you do. Nonetheless, here’s what happened…
We were speaking about recent tragedies, discussing the article “Pity Boston, Ignore Nigeria: The Limits of Compassion,” which questions why we as a country focus so intently on local (U.S.) tragedies and are much more ambivalent toward larger-scale violence in other areas of our world. I entered the discussion assuming we’d both feel that this is something that most people would wish were different, believing that while we in our humanness may identify more with tragedies that are closer to home, that we would be striving toward a greater sensitivity to the plight of all. I left, however, with haunting quotes in my mind, a series of comments that renewed my awareness that not everyone shares my worldview.
Here’s the thing, being a parent changes us, deepening our insights into all sorts of areas, calling us to a deeper engagement in the care of our families’ lives. It should not – we shouId not allow it to – cause us to lose sight of the greater whole and the needs that exist there.
I want a long list of things for my children: a life-giving faith, happiness, engaging education, love, good health, etc., etc. And what I want – what I desire for them – comes from deep down in my bones, for I desire that fullness of life that exists in God’s kingdom. But I do not want it more for my children, though I know them so much more intimately than I will ever know yours. I want it for all the world’s children, because it is only when these values are made available to all that they are truly ensured for any.
We are to be about building the Kingdom, where all of God’s own are empowered and called forth, where all of God’s own are treated in such a way that they cannot help but know Whose they are.
When that Kingdom comes – and now as we help to make it manifest and bring it into being – it has to be for all children, for all people and not only the ones we know or the ones who are most like us. That simply is not good enough. “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the [people] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” Gaudium et Spes
I was – and continue to be – hopeful. But here’s the difference: while the hopefulness of my youth was naïve, my current state of joyful hope is a realistic one. For while I was once someone who was hopeful yet unaware of and unable to imagine the pain that exists in our world, I am now someone who has been immersed in the pain and encountered there the unremitting grace present in the midst of suffering and despair. Because of this, I remain persistently hope-filled.
May God shatter the barriers that come between us and those in need. May God help us to see more clearly that love is without end. May our hearts be broken open and transformed, so that we can truly be led by the life-giving marrow we share with Jeremiah. For that marrow is our birth rite, as children of God.
“But if I say I’ll not mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I cannot do it!” Jer 20:9
So, come, let us dream together and create a world marked by the deepest desires given to us by our God! May that fire – the fire of the Holy Spirit – enliven and embolden us all!
Karon Latham lives in rural Michigan where she strives to create a world marked by justice as a mostly stay-at-home mom to three little ones, ages 2, 4 & 5. She also works part-time as the Director of Faith Formation for three small parishes and is involved in retreat ministry. She has a MAPM from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, CA, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. Karon served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Montana from 1995 to 1996.