Monthly Archives: October 2013

Guarding the Treasure: Are We Up for the Challenge?

I hear the phone ring and hope it’s Tommy. Weekend mornings are his favorite time to call.

It’s Tommy all right, but this time it’s not Mayor Tommy calling to complain that I haven’t been paying my bills. Neither is this imaginative little boy calling from his isolated cabin with no Internet access, or trying to track down the dishonest person in the office.

In fact, Tommy’s not calling to play at all. “I’ve been reading about house fire after house fire on the Internet,” he says. “A family of four died in a house fire.”

How terrible! “Let’s follow all the safety rules,” I say.

“But I think they were sleeping,” answers Tommy. “Maybe the alarm wasn’t working.”

I agree. We talk about fire safety, and I tell him that most people die from the smoke, not the fire, although that’s still terrible.

Then I remind him about the fire at my mother’s nursing home. “Even though those were very bad boys that started the fire, everyone got out–all the cats and dogs, workers and old people.”

This story has thrilled Tommy and Tina since they were very small.

But Tommy’s still sad. “What about the fishies?”

I say I don’t think they were allowed to have fish in that place.

When he hangs up, I ponder the gift of compassion–that which makes us sad when everything is right in our own lives. Who but God could give such a gift? And yet, I believe it’s incumbent upon us to nurture it. We must model compassion, and give children opportunities to reach out to those who are suffering, inconvenient as it may be for us at the time.

In my experience, young children tend to be equally concerned for animals and for people. Some ask, “With so many hungry and hurting people in the world, why should we care about cats and dogs?”

But Henry Bergh, who founded the ASPCA,  also spearheaded the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the U.S.

Let us celebrate and foster the gift of compassion wherever we find it, and in doing so help to make this world a kinder, gentler place.

“But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion . . . ” (Luke 10:33)


Tina Declares War–and Defeats her Adversaries

So, for d do you make the stick first or the hump first? How about its quarrelsome, lookalike cousin, the letter b, appropriate starter for words like bothersome, beastly and just plain bad?

And then there’s p, far more pernicious than you’d expect for a letter that starts such words as pretty, perfect and poised.

Tina gets out her special notebook, asks for the special pencil I keep in my purse for just such occasions, and rises to the challenge.

Stick first or hump first? Oh yes, and make the stick up to down, the hump too. Tina’s working from a perspective of obedience. Her mom has asked her to practice her difficult letters, and both her mom and grandma insist that she write left to right, up to down. Tina doesn’t see the reason for the latter–after all, the letters end up looking the same anyway. But still she obeys.

After writing a word beginning with each of these vexing letters, she devises a game. She makes a design with intersecting lines and interesting shapes, and writes one of her  adversaries in each shape.

A code goes at the top: red is for b, green for d, and orange for p. Tina colors her design, saying the names of the letters as she does so.

They say the best way to defeat an enemy is to make him into a friend. These letters are no longer Tina’s enemies as she finishes her coloring with a happy glow of satisfaction and the sweet relief of a difficult job well done.

Am I sorry she struggles? No, I am not.

All  life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy,  selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard  work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the  person we are today.
Pope Paul VI

The Best Medicine for Tina

Tina is weak and very achy for the fourth day in a row when Dad drops her off.

We sit on Maria’s step and I pray for Tina. I ask God to help us know what to do, and I also ask Him to help her feel better.

She gets into a warm tub, and soon calls, “Grandma, if you want you can get a chair and read me a story.” The book’s an absolute classic–it’s one Lisa made up for Tina’s cousin Tommy when he was just a baby. There are pictures of Tina in it, too. She brightens as I read the book and show her the pictures chosen and uploaded by Tommy’s mom.

The Little Penguin by A.J. Wood is next. Tina has me feel the beautifully embossed pages for her, as wet hands are a no-no.

She goes to bed and we have a great read, with an entire Berenstain Bears treasury and some extremely comforting stories from the end of Tina’s Bible Story book.

She’s still sick, but she’s getting chattier and chattier. Tina prays for herself in the car, and is positively chirpy, although still weak and achy, when we pick Maria up from work.

And I’m reminded yet again–about the power of God and the love of family. When I leave Maria’s, Tina’s on the couch with a pillow and blanket. There’s another pillow and blanket for Maria. Prayer, a drugstore preparation and a Mother-Daughter Movie Night will provide–I’m sure–just the right combination of medications for a much-loved little girl.