For thirty-something years I had the privilege of working with children who have severe disabilities. Often when I was out in the community with my students, strangers would approach me and say, “You must be so patient.” Yeah, sure, but probably no more than any other teacher. Other times folks would tell me I was doing “God’s work,” and once a school nurse said I would get a “crown in heaven” for all I was doing for these children.
The truth is working with these kids was a hecka lot of fun, and I don’t need any greater reward than that.
Tim Shriver, one of the Kennedy clan and current chairman of the Special Olympics, was quoted in Parade Magazine last weekend, and what he had to say really summed it up for me too. Just as his parents taught him, this is what my parents emphasized to me: “What our Catholic tradition has done well is make you not just ought to help, but want to help—hunger for it. Be hungry for justice, be hungry for healing, be hungry for connection, be hungry for leveling the playing field. That’s more than just a moral imperative. It’s believing that your best self will always be in solidarity with those who are having a hard time.” After all, he adds, “Jesus was all about [taking care of] the poor and the marginalized and then having a party.”
Yes, Jesus teaches us to be hungry for justice, hungry for healing, hungry for fun and hungry for cake. And I think Jesus would be fine with Christians making wedding cakes for same sex couples too. Just thought I’d throw that in there.
I’m writing this for all the non-feminists out there. Please take a look!
My playful suggestion in a recent post that we close all our schools leads me to a bigger question about raising children. I think if we, as a culture, were to write a mission statement, the first thing I would want it to say is “There is nothing more important than our children.” Sure, after 30 years working in elementary education, I am admittedly biased. But I say it can’t be any other way. As the song says “children are our future.” A people that doesn’t care about the propagation of its own species really has its priorities screwed up.
I’ve yet to read Sheryl Sandberg’s best selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, but I’ve heard her in more than one interview relate the following anecdote: when she drops her children off at school, she feels guilty, knowing she is making the choice to entrust their care to others, knowing that other moms who choose to volunteer at the school may know more about her children than she will know herself. But when her husband drops the children off at school, he feels great knowing he has participated in their care in a way men of previous generations may not have done.
I’m sure there are a lot of working moms who nodded in recognition when they heard Sandberg tell this story.
As a teenager in the 70s I was proud to call myself a feminist, and I am still proud to claim that title. A lot has changed in the past forty years, but to me, as Sandberg’s story proves, we’ve only scratched the surface. Whether or not a woman has a career or whether she “just” has a job to make ends meet, whether or not she likes her workplace, she still feels torn when she has to leave her children. And so do a lot of men.
To me, the issue isn’t whether or not parents feel guilty when they leave their children to go to work. I’m NOT saying—hey, women should feel less guilty and men should feel more guilty, and then we’ll have equality!—what nonsense! No, what I’m saying is this: I wish we could do more to balance our lives, so we can have the rewards of work (i.e. money, social outlet with co-workers and clients, creativity) as well as the sustenance of family life (and not just a half hour of face time as everyone is wolfing down food at the dinner table). We and our children deserve to have it all.
I have been dismayed in recent years to discover that many young women refuse to call themselves feminists. I want to tell them that it is my feminism that is the underpinning of my defense of family life. My feminism feeds my spirituality and my creativity.
More on this next week.