I'm reading Jhumpa Lahiri's book Unaccustomed Earth for my book group later this month. The stories are as wonderful as those of her earlier collection The Interpreter of Maladies which won a Pulitzer Prize (well deserved) in 2000. The stories, almost inadvertently, put me in mind of several trends I have been exposed to that sadden me considerably.
I have noted that some of the young people who work in the office I do seem to eschew parenthood. One young man expressed nothing but contempt for children (easily done when you have none yourself), another expressed horror at how much children drain from the family coffers and, jokingly or not, expressed the sentiment that he "would never have any of those."
Where once the expectation was that one would marry and have a family, the present expectation seems to be a perpetual adolescence of worry-free sex and freedom from the responsibility of caring for a child.
I will admit that at one time my sympathies were with these young people. I had a horror of having children that knew no bounds. And I suppose that it doesn't help to say that my horror was of a different sort. My chief concern was that given the father I had growing up, I wondered about my own ability to raise a child in any way that would be beneficial. My horror was not for me and my "lost freedom" (whatever that may be), but rather what a wretched individual I was likely to raise in the wake of what I had learned from my father.
I don't know how common this experience might be. But I do know that as I lived with my wife and I saw those around me with children, I began to wonder what that might be like and wondered (despite my horror) why we had so long been deprived of this. Eventually the longing and desire became so great that when Linda came home and asked me what I thought of adopting the child of a relative of a friend, my heart simultaneously fell (with the thought of what a wretched father I would be) and rejoiced at finally being able to care for one of these most precious ones of God. I had been given a gift that surpasses all other gifts and all other things of value. Within a few weeks we were caring for a new baby boy.
As you all know we named him Samuel, very deliberately, because at that time he had been asked of God for nearly fifteen years. He is a source of constant and unending delight and joy.
I can only hope that those I work with, those who would eschew the greatest of the gifts God has given us, will in time come to their senses and come to realize that the riches gained in a child to share life with far outweigh the passing riches of this world. Like many parents we have had to give up the thought of European Vacations, cruises, and even, for the most part, vacations to places that don't have relatives to stay with. We don't have the luxury of rich food and expensive cars, we can't afford many of the things our neighbors have. In order to homeschool him we have to forego the two incomes many families have and often struggle along on what I alone can make. And there would be some who would view these things as tremendous sacrifices. But I see them as gifts--each one of them--ways of not being quite so enamored and attached to the world at large. Blessings, mitzvahs, things that enrich our life. Because we have Samuel to share our lives, all these other things fade into insignificance.
And what this taught me more profoundly is the lesson Jesus most wished to impress upon us. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." In a microcosm, when our priorities are rightly ordered to the vocation to which we have been called, we begin to see the light of day. When I look upon my family situation, I see what God is calling me to and I long for it. There is almost no sacrifice too great for what we presently have as a family, because none of it seems like sacrifice. So too, there is almost no sacrifice too great to belong to God's family, because when our priorities are right, none of it seems like sacrifice. Perhaps that is why so many saints longed to suffer for and with the Lord, because suffering is not suffering when it is done in complete, abandoned love. Sacrifice is meaningless when the thing sacrificed loses all value--and so we long to repay in some way the great munificence, the magnificent love showered upon us by God our Father. And there is no way to do so except, perhaps, to love Him and cling to Him as Father forever--as the one who loves us so much that no Sacrifice was too great.
So, today blessing on all of those who accept, welcome, and nurture all the small people God has so generously blessed them with. And blessings on all those, who for whatever reason, have not yet received this gift--blessings that they will change their minds or hearts or be blessed as we have been blessed with an utterly unexpected gift.