‘Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”’ Mark 8:31-38
There’s an old Chinese proverb which says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
I’m a teacher. It’s my vocation, my charism; it’s in my blood. I taught my baby sister to read when she was three and I was thirteen and then went on to organize a summer neighborhood nursery school camp for her and her little friends which I ran for the next three summers. I wasn’t going to charge for it, but the mothers of the tots—children I babysat for—all insisted. Still my profits were nil because I reinvested every nickel I made in treats, art supplies and games for the kids. In the military I was a part-time instructor. When I got out it was to homeschool my own children. Now I’m the Director of Religious Education for my parish. What can I say? I love to learn and I love to share that love of learning with others.
Some lessons are harder than others. One of the hardest is this one: God, and your fellow man, are here to give you a hand up, but not a hand out. There’s a difference—a big difference. Ultimately, my destiny is my own responsibility. It is the result of my own choices. Every time something happens to me, I have a choice. I can accept what happens or I can whine, complain, and blame others for my circumstances. I wish I could say I never resort to those childish forms of behavior—that I always cheerfully accept whatever circumstances I encounter. I wish that were true, but it isn’t . . . yet. I’m still working on it.
That’s why I like this chapter so much. I need this reminder. In the next hour or the next day, something will happen which I don’t like. I can focus on those things or I can keep my eyes on what I can do, my next goal, what lies ahead.
My oldest daughter graduates from high school tomorrow. I’m feeling many things as I look ahead to this milestone. Fortunately I’ve been so busy lately; I haven’t had a moment to think about my feelings concerning this event, which swing from excited to sad and from proud to lonely all in the space of five minutes. Last night we went out to help some friends who were hit hard by the May 10th tornadoes clear trees. My house needed cleaning and I was tired from a full day at work, but somehow—with His Grace—I found the energy to do everything. Best of all I forgot about my daughter growing up, graduating and moving away.
Life changes and moves on. Today I went to a funeral—always a good reminder of the brevity of this life. I know that mine is going by at a break neck speed! In the meantime, if I can lend someone a hand up, I hope I do.
And I pray that somewhere along the line I taught my daughter to fish—literally and spiritually.