Reflection by Terri Gadzinski
Few moments in my life have been as certain as the first moments that my husband and I cradled our first newborn together. To inhale deeply the smell of her, to feel the warmth of her, to experience the blessing of birth. Beyond any measure of doubt, we were absolutely certain this was right. She was a perfect expression of God’s abundant gifts, and we were infinitely grateful.
Three children, as many pets, a mortgage, and two car payments later, we have to remind ourselves of those first moments a lot. Days fly by in a blur of activity and exhaustion. Suddenly, we find ourselves at the threshold of our youngest child’s college graduation. A turning point in his life, and ours. Like his sisters before him, he is ready to leave port and swim out to meet his ship, while we anxiously assess our past performance as parents – did we do enough? Did we do too much? Will he be, ok?
It is when I’m feeling most worried, fearful, and ungrateful that I know I’m most in need of what Christian stewardship has to offer.
The U.S. Bishop’s Pastoral Letter on Stewardship says this about parenting: “Parents have work of great importance to do in the domestic church, the home. Within the family, they must teach their children the truths of the faith and pray with them; share Christian values with them… Above all, it requires that parents themselves be models of stewardship, especially by their selfless service to one another, to their children, and to the church and community needs.”
When I view my son’s pending college school graduation through the lens of stewardship, I am transformed from frazzled to peaceful; from fearful to confident. I find my gratitude in the fog of my sometimes too busy life and see that it is, amazingly, still infinite. I have much to be grateful for if I only open my eyes.
As their first element of stewardship (gratitude) swells up within me, it fuels the other three elements of stewardship (accountability, generosity and the willingness to give back with increase.) When I can reflect clearly on all the gifts I have received – without the distractions of fear and doubt – gratitude consumes me. The priority then becomes taking these gifts and talents that God has given me and helping them to grow.
Gratitude is the ultimate motivation for a parent’s stewardship. If we open ourselves to the challenge of stewardship, our everyday actions should also model accountable and responsible choices, selfless generosity, and an attitude of giving back (with increase!) for the good of others. Shared household responsibilities, regular family dinners, volunteering time, talent or treasure for a favorite charity, finding time to be present to support family members in their activities and events, and taking seriously the Sunday Mass obligation. These kinds of actions, performed out of gratitude and over the course of a lifetime, help move us toward that head-spinning quote about parenting from the U.S. Bishop’s pastoral letter on stewardship.
Hanging on to gratitude is a great anchor in the undertow of life. In the great challenge of parenting, my actions to live out my own life as a grateful steward are the best food I can feed my kids in (and out) of port.
College graduation? Bring it on!