Against Gratitude

The other day a Facebook friend linked to a blog post on fifteen ways to raise happier, more grateful children. Just that morning I’d been complaining about how ungrateful our kids are for all the comforts they have and all the sacrifices we make for them—all the writing and living my husband and I don’t do so they can have nutritious food and a good education and lots of playtime in the open air. And what thanks do we get?

Though I know better, I clicked on the link. The blogger approached the whiny, sullen child as a spiritual problem that could be remedied with a combination of crafts and mindfulness exercises. Her advice included passing around a pad of tulip-shaped sticky notes at dinner so your kids can write down what they’re grateful for and then sticking the notes to the window to make a gratitude garden.

My first thought was, if I gave my kids Post-its with instructions to write down what they were grateful for they’d write “butts” on every single page and I’d end up yelling. Then I felt guilty that I haven’t raised kids who would be able to engage in such a wholesome activity without referencing body parts or excrement (which, I assure you, makes them deliriously happy).

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Each Woman Mary, Each Child Christ

I found respite recently in Jeanne Murray Walker’s essay on Alice Munro in Image, describing Munro’s domestic fiction, and related utterly to Walker’s wrestling with “Doing Something Important.” It is a place I find myself often, wondering if the few hours a week I have of child care for the baby are an example of my missing what I am supposed to be living and learning. Jesus does not say to come to him as someone Doing Something Important, but as a little child.

You’re not supposed to write about your own children if you want to be a real writer. Too cliché, too sentimental. But what about the one whose birth we so recently celebrated? This isn’t sentimental—it’s the real deal. A child is born in Bethlehem, and he is the king of kings. This is earth shattering. There’s something there we’re meant to learn. Maybe even everything.

A December 2004 article in Time notes that the nativity story is the part of the Jesus history that gives scholars most trouble. Only Matthew and Luke talk about the birth of Jesus, and like most parallel accounts in the Bible, their stories contradict each other. Neither account is given much room on the page for a holiday of such current social and commercial import.

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Today’s Child Sacrifice

The following will be delivered as a d’var Torah, reflections on the Torah reading on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at Congregation Beth Israel, Asheville, North Carolina.

Let’s get straight to it. Child sacrifice.

The akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac, invites us to think about child sacrifice and putting an end to it. But haven’t we already put an end to it? Are children still being sacrificed? In the United States? In North Carolina? In Asheville?

Well, that depends on how you define sacrifice.

What would you call it when a girl is born to a poor mother, whose husband, when he’s around, abuses her, if not physically then emotionally, in, say, Charlotte, North Carolina? Born in Charlotte, that child, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project, has only a little more than a 4% chance of climbing out of poverty in her lifetime. If she is born under similar circumstances in Asheville, North Carolina, her chances improve: 7.1%. Given the miracle of life, this child’s opportunities for life seem severely limited from the day she is born. Is this a kind of child sacrifice? [Read more...]

Holy Water

One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”
–St. Bernadette

My daughter just finished a week at our local Catholic school’s day camp. She came home with a crèche she made from a shoebox, a St. Brigid’s cross of pipe cleaners, and a plastic bottle of holy water, blessed by the deacon.

“It’s not from Lourdes,” the catechist told us, apologetically. For Catholics, the spring at Lourdes—dug by the bare hands of St. Bernadette at the urging of Our Lady— is the champagne of holy water. I think the batch my daughter brought home actually came from the water fountain in the school hallway. I was sitting out there with my toddler when the volunteers filled the plastic basin.

My own elementary school was named for Our Lady of Lourdes, and Mary was our patron and mascot to the point of insanity. My memories of religious education consist almost entirely of stories of Marian apparitions and miracles. Even slumber party games of Bloody Mary conjured images of a glowing lady in a cave, whispering secrets. One of my best friends had an actual glow-in-the-dark Mary I made her hide in a drawer when I slept over. [Read more...]

A Baby Smaller Than Roosevelt’s Eye

Guest Post
By Lindsey DeLoach Jones

For most new parents, the first glimpse of the life they’ve created is a grainy ultrasound printout, when the baby resembles—if not a human being—at least a gummy bear.

In my daughter’s first photograph, three inches by five and black-and-white, she is microscopic in size. She is a five-day-old blastocyst, smaller—as one website puts it—than Roosevelt’s eye on the face of a US dime. She looks like a flaky-crusted apple pie.

Our sneak peek is not what I would call lucky; my husband and I sloughed through years of infertility before consenting to the medical interventions that made it possible for my daughter to grow in a dish for five days before being ushered to my warm insides. [Read more...]


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