Back in the day – which in my stories increasingly means “last century” – we did not start school until after Labor Day. So, the August startup of schools always surprises me. Even if the start of school is not on your radar, it was kinda’ hard to miss the crowds of parents and kids out there in the stores last weekend. People walking around with lists of things to purchase, stores with sales on school supplies, iPads, and everything needed to succeed. And what could be better? The tax-free weekend that accompanies the return to school!
Those easy mornings of slowly getting around to the day are about to be a memory as you now have to wake up at zero-dark-thirty (that means “really early”) to get ready, grab your things, get out the door, and have a very pre-planned day unfold – and that is just the parents. Carpools, drop-offs, pick-ups, homeroom, practice, lunches, and a million things in between, like your job!
And why is education important? We send our kids off to school to learn basic skills: reading, writing, arithmetic, problem solving, and other cognitive skills; to gain and process knowledge, learn from experts, meet friends and socialize, and develop talents.
And education always has a “home school” component. There is the parental role of encouragement, reading, and support. But there are also talents and skills taught at home that are necessary for navigating life. Here are some talents you should pass on to your children: prepare a meal, wake themselves up on time, do laundry, pump gas, pitch in and contribute before being asked, pack their own bags, politely order for themselves at restaurants, grocery shopping, plan an outing, use public transportation, and after years of admonitions to not talk to strangers, learn how to talk to people they do not yet know. And of course, as parents, you are the first and foremost teachers of the faith. Sunday school and Catholic schools were always back-up support.
As parents you have received the amazing gift of life from God, learned to love, and in your children became “co-creators” with God. These children are a gift from God and so, as parents, you are called to:
Receive God’s gifts gratefully into your life and home;
Nurture God’s gifts responsibly that they have the fullness of life;
Share God’s gifts justly and charitably so that your children learn love, faith, justice, and hope;
Return those gifts to God abundantly in preparing them to take their place in the family of God.
Receiving, nurturing, sharing, and returning God’s gifts: That is what it means to be a Good Steward. I ended last week’s column with: “The start of Sacred Heart being a Stewardship Parish is for each one of us to be good Stewards in our own lives.” Where last week I was speaking about Time, this week my point is being good stewards of Talents.
I suspect most people would not naturally equate stewardship and rearing children, but that is exactly what it is. We make a tremendous investment in our children’s formation, education and maturation. We encourage them to develop their skills, talents, and abilities and to have a passion for following dreams. Why? Because we want them to become people fully alive, people who know joy, people who see their value and place in the world. It is what our parents wanted for us. As St. Irenaeus said centuries ago, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
Last week I wrote about the tithing of Time:
“In tithing we recognize that: God is the owner, and we are only the managers of his Time. We are asked to give back 10 percent… not a what’s left over at the end of a long and busy day, [but] the best portion, the first portion. It is the sign of our love to give the first and the best to God. Are you a person who is a good steward of God’s time?”
“Each of us is given 168 hours each week. I am not asking you if you spend 16.8 hours of the week in ministry, but I think it is fair for you to ask yourself how are you returning those 16.8 hours to God? Prayer? I hope that is part of the accounting. Quality time with family? That, too. Time for exercise or relaxation (some kind of self-care)? I hope so. And the list goes on.”
The same basic question needs to be asked of ourselves as regards to Talent. From that deep well of gifts God has given you, what part do you return to God in terms of volunteering and ministry? Are you mindful that rearing children is a dedication of your talents to a ministry? Have you considered volunteering with your children in a parish ministry? It would be a “two-for” – teaching and at the same time using your gifts and talents.
And while I couched this column in the context of family and children, the same basic question applies to us without children or whose children are grown: Are we nurturing, sharing, and returning our Talents to God?
This is what it means to begin to live life as a good Steward of the Talent God has given you. It is a way of living in the midst of our incredibly busy lives to take account of the gift of our talents so that we are people who receive, nurture, share, and return that gift to God.