Between news coverage consisting of purely politics and religion, the world seems extremely heavy these days. For an empath such as myself, that means every moment spent following the news either on the television, or via social media, feels weighty on my heart… and, in turn, on my body… and, my soul.
As I sat with my thoughts on Monday, trying to find just the right inspiration to put words to paper, I began wondering what my role might be in the weightier matters of the world. I know the Pope has asked the faithful to pray and fast, and many individuals are participating in letter-writing campaigns. Some individuals even feel called to participate in mass protests, gathering in the hundreds or thousands – whether for politics or religion. Still, more individuals are called to orchestrate or participate in prayer vigils.
All of these are good, worthy, and worthwhile actions! I admire those who come together in massive, peaceful, protests, even if I don’t always agree with their platforms. I sometimes envy the parents who take their families – baby and all – to participate in prayer vigils.
But, as I survey the world and “what I can do,” I realize I am not called to public demonstrations. It isn’t me. As you can most likely tell, my cup of tea is typically expressing myself through written word, whether spearheading or participating in a letter writing campaign, or creating a call to action via this blog.
Yet, it just doesn’t seem enough these days. The weight is still so heavy, and while others write or speak about a millstone around the necks of priests and religious who have committed unspeakable atrocities, I have felt a millstone around my own neck as well.
As I took this weight to prayer, I was gently reminded of something a priest said to me years ago.
I am a wife and mother. As such, I am not called to necessarily go out and be a missionary to the world, traveling more than the Army makes our family. Neither am I necessarily called to go out and demonstrate for causes I believe in, especially if they put myself – or my children – in danger.
Rather, on my path to holiness, through my children and husband, I am called to serve those immediately around me.
I am called to care for the immediate needs of my children. At this time, that includes diaper changes for a couple, feeding all of them, ensuring one does his homework. It involves making sure they go to bed on time, say their prayers, and above all, know they are safe and loved.
I am called to care for my husband. That means making sure I am present and available when he returns home at the end of a very long workday, or work week. When he’s deployed, it means dropping everything for that coveted phone call, since we can’t guarantee when he will get another phone call. The present time also means making sure my husband knows I value his contribution to our family, and to my life.
I have heard the St. Teresa of Calcutta quote, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family,” isn’t quite what she said. Yet, when I took the heaviness on my soul to prayer, those were the words I heard on my heart.
Through my actions of “simply” being a mother, I am changing this world. And, so are you, dear parent reading these words.
The change we are effecting is not immediate, nor will it happen overnight. Rather, the change we are implementing takes time, effort, and diligence. The change we are making is a lasting change, for sure. And, at times, the effort is so thankless.
Society tells stay at home parents they are “wasting their skills” if they “just” stay at home. Others demand that parents take their children to rallies, protests, and the like, to teach their children social justice.
It feels as though nothing a parent does is ever good enough – between the messages society sends, and the small, almost-daily, skirmishes we wage with irrational little mirrors of ours, as we try to teach the basics of respect, self-esteem, completing a job, and responsibilities.
Yet, changing the world begins at home.
From the adults they see and interact with on a regular basis, children learn how to treat others.
They learn to value others’ differing opinions. They learn respect. They learn to embrace diversity. They learn what behavior is appropriate, and what behavior is inappropriate.
From adults around them, children learn what is safe. What is good. What is loving.
So, if you are like me, and are experiencing a heaviness and weight on your heart as we watch the world around us, I encourage you to join me in an entirely different “movement.”
I encourage you to join me in buckling down. Turn off the news, step away from the social media, and double down in your vocation.
Focus on what you are called to do, in order to achieve sainthood.
I’m not saying to stop advocating for change, or to not make your voices heard. Rather, I am saying to not lose focus of what God has called you to do.
If you are married:
God gave you a spouse. Focus on your spouse. Quiet your desire to scream, yell, and cry about the world around us, and instead, listen to how your spouse is truly doing. Commiserate with your spouse as needed. Offer solutions to their problems as able. Comfort them as best as possible.
If you have children:
Part of God’s plan for you is to achieve sainthood through the little ones – or, big ones – in your life. Focus on their needs – using Maslow’s hierarchy, make sure they feel safe, secure, loved, and have food, shelter, and clothing. Be present for them. Wipe their tears when they are crying. Reassure them when they express confusion or anxiety. Keep their environment safe and secure against the turmoil and upheaval of the world around us.
Focus on the Family:
Tune out the negativity. Start teaching, or continue to teach, empathy, kindness, compassion, and diversity. Show these skills by modeling the traits. Most parents say they want to leave the world a better place for their children. But, this begins at home. We can’t make a lasting change in this world, if we don’t first change the hearts and minds of the family units. Teach boys how to treat each other, how to treat girls, and how to treat themselves; teach girls how to treat each other, how to treat boys, and how to treat themselves. Teach them it is okay to have differences of opinions, race, gender, religion, politics; and, more importantly, teach them to respect the opinions, race, gender, religion, and politics of another person.
Focus on your community:
We all live somewhere, and have interactions with other people on almost a daily basis. Get out into your community and make a positive difference. Volunteer at a nursing home, or an animal shelter. Put hours in at your local place of worship, doing handiwork, or filing paperwork, or simply greeting the stranger who wanders in off the street. Pay for the coffee drink of the person behind you in the drive-thru. When you donate to the panhandler on the street, see the person behind the sign, and at the very least, pray for them. Instead of laying on your horn when you get cut off, give wide berth and wave the person through. Consider being a court appointed child advocate through your local Guardian Ad-Litem office. Consider being a safe haven for children who are abused and neglected, by becoming a certified foster parent/family. Volunteer at a domestic violence call center; or, simply let a victim know you believe them, by saying the words, “I believe you. I am here for you. I will stand by your side.”
Be the change you would like to see in the world.
Because change starts at home. It starts with each of us as individuals.
The world is a heavy place right now. But not all of us are called to go out, leave our lives, and advocate for change. Rather, most of us are stuck in the daily grind, trying to pay bills and raise little humans. We are in the trenches, and the trenches are never a pretty sight. We are demanding change, but we must be the change in our daily lives. Tune out the negativity, and throw off the heavy burden that does not belong to you.
Plant and sow the seeds of unity in your life, and watch the blossom grow and bloom, flourishing under care, guidance, and love.
By all means, if you feel called to protest, or make public demands for change, do so.
But, those actions should not deter you from the roles which were given to you in order to make you a saint. None of us must shirk our responsibilities to our families and communities, in order to have our individual voices heard.
Know that it is okay to allow others to lead the charge and make the battle cry known. Your support behind the scenes will make a difference.
And, if you are a spouse or parent, and the world is heavy right now, impacting your ability to be a kind, gracious, patient spouse or parent, this Catholic mom and blogger gives you permission to walk away from the negativity. Turn off the television, or turn it to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or reruns of Mr. Rogers. Walk away from social media for a while. It is okay to focus on your family first.
Remember the role of raising your little ones is one of the most important roles in the history of this world. You are making a difference.
One day at a time.
One hour at a time.
Remember the role of being a supportive and loving spouse is one of the most important roles in your eternity.
Will the change you help make in your own family be the positive difference you want to see in this world?