By Jan Bilewicz,
Love One Another! 10/2008 → Christian family
Some time ago I wrote about the kind of wife I would like to have. Today I will share with you a few thoughts about the family of my dreams.
Now my dreams do not have to correspond in every respect to your dreams. For example, I would want to raise my family in the country. We would live close to nature. This is very important for me, for nature has much to tell us about the greatness and wisdom of God. The trees, the fields, the flowers constantly weave tales about their Maker. To hear these tales, all you need is a little peace in your heart. The city, on the other hand, tells the story of its creator — Man. I prefer to admire the works of the Creator and look for Him there.
I once spent three years in the country. I remember the birds coming to feed on my window ledge. What a joy it was to watch them! Once I even saw a woodpecker. Bullfinches were never so courageous. They came only in times of heavy frost. They would perch timidly on the lilac bushes growing around the house. Magpies like to hop about. They are lovely birds, but unfortunately they have nasty characters. They like to steal eggs from other birds’ nests. I used to watch the smaller birds battling it out with them. Blackbirds stayed close to the house. I loved to hear the concerts they put on in spring and summer. The sight of wild geese flying south in V-formations always tugged at my heartstrings. They would fly thousands of miles only to return to their nesting grounds unfailingly every spring. Not bad, eh?
My neighbors wondered at the fact that I had no television set and even offered to lend me one. I told them I did not need a television, since I watched the two best programs anyway. I would look out one window and enjoy National Geographic. I would look out the other and enjoy Animal Planet — all live! I could always get the news in the newspaper. I did not watch TV, but then I could enjoy things that the TV addict could never dream of.
I could say a lot on the subject. I suppose a book could come out it, but my task here is to write a brief letter… Still, I would love to live in the country — my wife, our children, and myself. Lots of children! Lots! I love children!
I will tell a little story. Imagine you are walking through a small town. It is a peaceful sunny morning. Suddenly you notice clouds of smoke pouring out of one of the houses. You hasten your step. You draw nearer. You see the house on fire. People stand around it, talking nervously and waving their hands. Some are feverishly fetching buckets of water. “Haven’t they called the fire brigade?” — you ask yourself. “That’s no way to put out a fire.” Then you hear a woman (no doubt a neighbor) screaming that there may be a child in the house. “I’m sure there’s a child inside!” — she says at last. She saw the mother leaving the house without her child. The mother often did this. The child would be having its morning nap and she would go out to do the shopping. Your lips remain silent, but your heart cries out: “People! There’s a child in there!” Suddenly a young man runs up to the burning house. The door is locked. He wrestles with it; finally he manages to break in. He runs inside. Everybody freezes. You start praying as never before — earnestly, from the bottom of your heart. Time goes by, ever so slowly, and then suddenly the man emerges from the house with the crying child in his arms! What a relief! Thank God! Relief! Relief! — even though the house continues to burn. Now the garage and the car inside catch fire. “Let them burn,” you say to yourself. “Let ten more houses and ten garages with cars inside burn down, just as long as the child is saved!”
So let us return to reality. You will admit the man did something great — incredibly great. He saved the life of a child — a single, unique child. No one was born quite like this child or ever would be. Human life is priceless. Once begun, it will never end. It has infinite worth, incomparably greater than any material thing.
And now listen carefully: to save a child’s life and to bring it to life are more or less the same thing, right? To give a person life is an immeasurably great thing. Life is unique, eternal, and priceless. It is infinitely more valuable than any material tpossession.
And yet look how many marriages refuse to give life! They would prefer to have more things. We hear people say, “I can’t afford another child.” Often it is truly wealthy people who say this. An Italian soccer player recently said it. He earns several millions of euros a year and cannot afford another child!! How many others say the same thing — people who, while they may not earn millions, could easily, objectively speaking, afford more children? Is this not neglecting a great good? Someone is denied entrance into the world. Someone does not exist; and yet, with just a little bit of good will and love, he could exist.
Look around you and you will see for yourself that people choose things over people. See how much harassment families with numerous children must put up with at times. Such displays of unselfish anger! Such snake-like hissings and pitiful shakings of the head! Pity yourselves, you materialists, you selfish people! Quite apart from other interesting considerations, who will pay for your retirement? If there is no one to pay for it, then you will know real want! If you should — God forbid! — fall sick, you will have just enough to afford a bottle of aspirin! You will sit alone in a home for the elderly, because no one will be there to visit you? And then — you can already see it in the works — our social engineers, concerned as ever for the welfare of the people, will solve all your problems with one fell stroke — by euthanasia!
I prefer people to things
I prefer people to things. I would prefer a poor life surrounded by many children than a life with one child and surrounded by things of luxury. Besides, poverty is a relative concept. Tell me who is richer: someone who has ten children, a humble house in the country, and has to get around by bus, or someone who has ten houses, ten cars, and no children at all? Well, who is richer?
A young woman in her second year of English studies recently sent me a letter. “Most people,” she writes, “consider me a liberated woman destined for a successful life. But what is success? What is a liberated woman? You see them everywhere now. These are women who have put their professional career above everything else. True, they earn titles and positions and make scads of money, but they do not strike me as very happy. I say thanks but no thanks to such success. For me success means being able to fulfill myself in love, being able to make my “other half” happy, to help him grow and see our love bear fruit in the form of children. Success for me is being able to share my life with the man I love and to have lots of little pairs of lips to kiss goodnight. I dream of having a large family. I feel that my highest calling is to be a wife and mother. I also want to be a translator and study other languages. But what good are all those other professional accomplishments, if I have no one to share the joy of earning them with? Well, what good are they? Will I come home with my titles and positions? So what! Will I make dinner and supper for these titles? Will I sit down to eat with them? Some success! How many women buy into the view that achieving success in life is incompatible with having a family, or at least with having children! For me, the sight of another child would only strengthen my sense of success. Every little tot would be another success for me.”
A good start in life
We hear people say, “We have to give our children a good start in life.” Right! “But what is a good start?” — I ask. For one thing, a child gets an excellent start when he is raised in the company of brothers and sisters. This way he learns constantly to share with others, to cooperate with, empathize with, and respect others, to bear a hand, resolve conflicts, and so on — and all in the most natural way. Is it not a bad start to deprive a child of the company of brothers and sisters without serious cause? So your only child has his own room with a computer, TV, video player, etc. (Notice that he is living in a world of things and not people). So he goes to a private school, takes summer language courses in Paris, and ski lessons in Colorado — so what? Too many people think that these are the things that make for a good start. An ideal start for raising thoroughly selfish, eternally dissatisfied, world-weary, down-and-out cripples! Needless to say, these parents have no time for their child, for they have to be constantly earning money in order to provide him with a “decent” life. We know the results all too well. In the end, these parents have to spend another packet to send their child to a psychotherapist or detox center.
Learning is not only gaining knowledge and acquiring skills. Learning values and acquiring virtues is infinitely more important. So many of our so-called educated professionals may be competent in their fields, but they are not good and noble people. All too often they are conceited narcissists, who look down on simple people. Some of these “quasi-educated” types, after six years of higher studies, earn money on the side murdering unborn children or imparting bogus advice on affairs of the heart in Bravo and other such horrors.
I would not place a high priority of my children “making a mark in the world,” as the saying goes. I would much prefer my son to be an honest shoemaker than a charismatic politician who supports pornography for example. Having siblings and loving parents is far more important for the development of a child. You do not have to be a pedagog to know this. Love — as we all know — flows from the heart, not from the wallet. Along with love, children have to be given values, not material things. But then one gives what one has. Some give their children a sense of honesty, responsibility, hard work, love of God and neighbor, etc; others — computers, videos, motorbikes, cars, love of money, pleasure, luxury, power, achieving one’s goals at any cost, and a hundred other forms of selfishness. What would you give your children?
I never cease to wonder at how I am like my parents in the way I think and see certain things — in the way I experience the world and various events. Parents convey their values to children in a highly mysterious way — not only by word but also by the entire spiritual climate, which they create around themselves. Somehow the child assimilates this climate along with the one he creates for himself.
I can now appreciate how great a legacy my parents left me — not material, but spiritual. Their material wealth was very modest. But when it came to matters of the spirit, they were very rich. The holy are princes and kings. From them one inherits treasures. My parents received their spiritual inheritance from their parents. They worked for it steadily and by the sweat of their brow. Work, in the popular sense, brings material goods, but work on oneself brings spiritual goods. How many people think about that? How many people value spiritual wealth over material wealth?
We must not only keep up but also increase what we have received. Some are born in spiritual poverty and yet in the course of their life acquire great wealth. God is extremely generous with those who work his acre fervently. Indeed, everyone can become a millionaire. But the opposite is also true. One can squander the spiritual fortune that generations have worked for.
True, it is not only the parents who form the child. The relationship is simple: the less time parents have for their children, the more the children are formed by mass culture, the peer group, the school, and the state. I shudder to think what children are learn from watching TV, reading youth magazines, playing computer games, etc.
I am convinced that more than ever before the mother’s place is at home — and not just in the evening when she is exhausted after putting in an eight-hour day elsewhere. Giving children a good start? Right! What is more important for them than to know that someone is waiting for them when they return home from school, that there is someone there to care for them, hug them, talk with them, explain things to them, and calmly answer their questions? Precisely this is giving the child a good start. And what is more important to the mother than being with her own children? After all, you love someone. It is people you love. Yes, but you have to love people more than things.
I would also be happy to see my children. I am sure of it! Our evenings would
be reserved for being together with the family. Not gaping at the
TV. I cannot for the life of me understand why a stupid box should
be more interesting than a living person — one’s own children.
We would share everything we had seen and experienced that day.
We would play snakes and ladders, sing songs, read books, work in
the garden, go for walks and bike rides. Prayer is very important,
going to confession and Holy Mass. I would tell my children about
God. This way I would convey my faith. It is the most valuable treasure
that parents can give their children.
It is a joy for a father to be with his children. To wonder at the Creator’s supreme work. To wonder at their growth, their spontaneity, their simplicity and innocence. You can learn a great many things from children.
“But where,” you ask, “will we find the money to have a large family, especially since mom would have to stay home?” Take it easy! Money isn’t supposed to be the greatest worry. There are more important things to worry about. I have a few ideas of my own as to the question of money. But the main thing is that we will have to live very modestly — following the example of the Holy Family in Nazareth, not the Rockefeller family. Have less; be more (and if to have, then so as to be able to share it with others). Basically it means no luxuries, no unnecessary things or spending money on trifles. Maybe the children will be surprised at first and ask why they have none of the various gadgets that others have. I would then explain to them that happiness does not depend on how much one has but on who we are. I thing they could stand a little asceticism.
Besides, I would not worry too much about the future. God is a caring Father.
That is what Jesus tells us: “Do not worry about your life
and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to
clothe it. Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap
or gather into bards: yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you
not worth much more than they are?” (Matthew
6:25-26). And he says again: “So do not worry; do not say,
‘What are we to eat: What are we to drink? How are we to be
clothed?’ It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these
things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set our hearts
on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other
things will be give you as well” (Matthew
6: 31-33). A great promise made by Christ Himself! He states it
twice. I believe (or else I am a pagan?). Do I put God first or
I must end now; though there is much more I would like to say. Till next time. May God bless you!