Friday, November 16, 2012

The Breaking of Spirit

I recently heard a story relaying the negative effects of too much screen-time (phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) on family dynamics. The author interviewed talked about walking past playgrounds seeing parent after parent benching-out on their iPhones and Blackberries while their kids played. It struck a huge chord...I do this this all the time. With the new little one, even sans phone, spending QT in the sandbox has been difficult and I have been beating myself up about it. Yet, today, I realized that the bench can, at times, be the best seat in the gravel/wood chips.

As I sat at our picnic table cleaning up the half-eaten chicken nuggets that were left in the wake of looming slides and swings, I caught my little man playing in the sandbox. He sat down with a shovel, a rake, and 2 buckets readying himself for the "kycraper" (skyscraper) in his near future. A little girl approached...

"Can I play?" she asked.
"Oh...sure!!"he replied immediately handing her a shovel and bucket- half of his trusty tools without a second thought. He then began to fill her in as to the construction project he was currently undertaking. You see, he said, "This is going to take teamwork." And off they went, playing, shoveling, laughing, and sharing their shovels, rakes, and prompts to share or to include. Just two little people exercising their innocence.

It was one of those serendipitous mom moments that make all maternal hearts go pitter-patter. My kid rocks, I thought. But then I thought further. Yes, yes he does...rock...but there was something more. Some bigger reality, an inclination towards the a simple shovel share. Something lives inside his little heart that is bigger than anything I could teach or bigger than just he could be.

Which got me thinking...

At some point something changes, a switch is flipped. Suddenly, sharing equates to an inability to acquire, self comes before all else, and a mentality that puts others first often results in ostracism or a perception of weakness. My two and half year old showed today, when no one was directing his behavior or guiding his choices, that written in the depths of his heart was to share- who he was and what was his. Innately, he welcomed others with open arms, knowing that the trials of this life require "teamwork."

At what point does our natural inclination to share a shovel, no questions asked, turn? In the wise words of Blessed John Paul II, "When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society."How do we defend natural capacity to serve others so that our children can do better, be better? I am open to suggestions...because this mother of two would give away her blessed shovel to anyone who can preserve my children from the unavoidable truth of individualism.

Yet, here is where my story I could choose to dwell in the hard reality that some day the odds shout that my child, your child, all children in our beloved country of excess will look at the little girl asking to play and respond with a resounding "No." And I could sit a bemoan the fact that, at some point, all good things come to an end-- eventually that shovel will be prized and objectified rather than shared. But instead, I am going to revel in the smile I saw beam across the face of a little girl when my little man opened his heart and his sandbox. A smile that could inspire a nation to discover purpose, voice conscience, and desire the greater good. A smile that could change hearts and maybe even allow my little man's to remain in that unadulterated place. 

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