Last night I had dinner with my mom and we spent the majority of the night discussing politics and the generational changes. As the daughter, and only child, of a single mom, I grew up differently than my friends with two parents. I grew up watching a hard-worker never ask for help, never take a handout and never miss a sporting or school event. Over the course of our talk, I tried to articulate the effect her hard work had on my own perspective and how it molded me. I never heard her complain about work. I never saw her shun someone different than us. I saw good so I wanted to do good and be like my mom.
Since high school, I’ve spent a lot of time working in my church pre-school, teaching Sunday school and also as a nanny. I’ve had the opportunity to hear a lot of children speak on their perspectives of the world and I must say, overall, they have a much brighter outlook than us. They are so pure and innocent and it certainly makes me wonder the point at which they change. Is it because of what we tell them to do or what we don’t tell them to do?
Growing up, we went to church, religiously, but my mom never told me why I had to go to church. I attended, listened, but at a young age, realized that no one can dictate what kind of Christian I am. My faith was (and continues to be) mine and my relationship is personal. My mom never told me “This is what we believe and you have to believe it, too.” She never said I had to subscribe to specific denomination. She answered questions, which were plentiful, but allowed me to draw my own conclusions. She also told me that when I was an adult, it was my choice to not attend church. Somehow I always managed to stay on course and here I am…still a Christian.
I recently had a similar conversation with a state representative who was telling me about his daughter questioning homosexuality, which is not accepted in their religion. Instead of telling her what he wanted her to think, he asked what she thought. Amazingly, she subscribed to the faith-based answer.
I think back to age six, visiting with my mom at her hair appointment. Her hair dresser was gay and talked about his boyfriend during their conversation. I asked questions later but my mom just explained that he was good at his job and he was a good person. What he believed or how he lived his life didn’t change those things. I was six years old and I remember that conversation vividly because my mom put the person –as an actual person– first.
Sometimes I think we get in the habit of sharing too much with children. (Please do not mistake this for telling you how to raise your children- I am the strongest advocate for everything stemming from parental choice). But I think we teach our children to divide, judge and dissociate. I won’t discredit the victim mentality in our society, but when you teach your child that they can’t even play with the kid who has two mommies, you’re teaching a malleable child that they should choose principles over humanity when no choice needs to be made. Should you teach your children that those not like you are unacceptable as part of their life?
Children aren’t stupid. They will adhere to the values you show them. If they see you work hard, they will simply come to know that is what is expected of them. If they see you volunteering at church, they will see the value and joy you gain from doing so. They will see values at work instead of hearing values in your command. Isn’t that a better route than telling them they have to help the poor because “it’s what we always do” or “because I said so”.
If you consider the #snowpacalypse that hit Atlanta just a few weeks ago, people opened their hearts and homes to neighbors and strangers. I doubt before helping someone push a car or offering snacks if the helper asked the helpee if they voted for Obama or supported gay marriage or the legalization of marijuana. Yes, these issues are important and one should always remain true to their principles, but we are humans before politicos and we have all have enough flaws (like chewing with your mouth open and interrupting) that can be deterrents in friendships and relationships.