When are we going to stop blaming them?

My heart goes out to the parents of today. Should their children choose a ‘wrong path,’ they get the blame. . Should the children do badly at school, the parents are to be blamed; should they have engaged themselves in a fight or be rude to someone, the parents are to be blamed; should they become drug addicts, of course the parents; should they be expelled from school, surely the parents …and so the story goes. There was a time I was just as guilty and being freshly ordained as a young priest did not help. However, today I thank God for having learnt. Experience is really the greatest teacher. When are we going to stop? Yes, it is true that some parents seem to be irresponsible and do a terrible job. Yes, it is true. However, are not the majority of parents today responsible individuals who take a keen interest in their children’s welfare?

Should there be doubt, well let us just look around. Are the delinquent ones in majority in our neighbourhood today? Can we find responsible children today in our neighbourhoods and schools? Even if only one should be found, their parents should be acknowledged. The world keeps “producing” a multiplicity of responsible and integrated children. Then, if this is so the question remains. Where have they learnt to be responsible? It did not creep up naturally in the night into our children. Someone must have shouldered the responsibility. Our parents, of course whether adopted or natural or another significant other shouldered this responsibility to “parent” these children.

I am not condoning ‘irresponsible parenthood,” for this in itself is against the natural thrust of “nature “and “nurturing.” However, I am trying to say that we need to “big up” our parents. We need to congratulate them on a job well done; for their task is not an easy one. It can be so demanding. I mean so demanding. My heart goes out to the parents who have to juggle a 9 to 5 job and still ensure that their children have acquired the skills that will enable them to contribute meaningfully to the demands of our society today. The truth is most of them do succeed.

Here, I want to take some time to single out our single parents; whether they are male or female. I cannot imagine what you go through daily. It is unimaginable. I think to put it simply you know how to “stretch” not only that dollar bill, but most importantly you know how to stretch yourself…(I wonder how you do it) to ensure that these children of yours will and will follow a path that is conducive to the acceptable norms and values of our world. I congratulate you. You deserve a bow.

I commend also the men and women with no children of their own, who because of “love only” have been moved to the process of adoption. Here something beautiful happens which is too easily forgotten. Two things occur here. The child receives parents only because o f love. This child has been chosen only because of love. I was moved when some time ago I listened to a television programme where an adopted mother was giving her experience. She said words to the effect that when she met the child for her, she knew; for she felt something moved in her guts. This is profound. Adopted parents we salute you. You have given a child an opportunity to be …to be in a family. The reverse is also true as one of my friends recently reminded me. The adopted child gives an opportunity to these parents to become…yes to become parents; a gift and an honour they would not have had otherwise. It is a “process of complementary formation enshrined in love.”

Sometimes I wonder if the demand placed on parents today is not too overwhelming. Why do I say so? Well, it is simple. We sometimes and often refer to the ‘gift of parenting’ as though it were exempted or “cut off’ from society. We make reference to our parents in a way that puts them away from other human beings. It is almost as though they lived on another planet other than earth, even another universe. We sometimes fail to realise that these parents are humans, living in our world. Yes living in our world; the one in which we continue to indulge and participate. The type of society present will be reflected in the quality of ‘parent-hood,” and the parents themselves will influence the society in which they live.

We are all responsible. In the final analysis, it is not about casting blame. This is too simplistic an approach. It is about coming together in dialogue and with a spirit of “openness” to chart a way forward. It is all about having faith in us, in ourselves to find effective solutions for us. It is about finding the solutions’ within’ and not ‘without’; for we are capable and have always been as humans to find amicable solutions. We have this capacity given by God to solve issues.

I think there is nothing that can devastate the heart of parents as to see their children proceed unto a path of destruction. This must be terrible to parents. To see your child “self-destruct’ in the face of your own “state of powerlessness.” This sate or “being able to do nothing” must be like a stabbing of the heart to the parents. This always reminds me of Mary standing powerless at the foot of the cross, being powerless to save her son from death. How quickly we glide over these events of life. It is really those who work in the kitchen who feel the heat. After you have put all your efforts – best as you have known to care for your children and to end up with this result… – it must be a “cross” that is worn every day. In spite of this, these parents can continue to be parents to others. This is commendable.

It is of importance to remember that we live in a pluralistic world, where no “man’ is an island or can even become an island. What we do as individuals or groups have an effect on the entire whole. Therefore, society has an effect on our parents, for they themselves make up this very society. My grandmother and mother taught me this phrase; “blood cannot come from stones,” meaning the kind of society we have today, will be reflected in the qualities of our parents. The reverse is also true. These same parents influence the society in which they or we live. It is a complementary process. Parents are intrinsically “part and parcel” of the society in which they live. They influence the society, and the reverse is true. So where do we go from there? I do not have the answers. I just want to begin a process of reflection. I would like to end this article with a series of questions directed at the reflective process;

What are the structures available today to assist parents in their noble parenting task?

Do we put too much of our attention at the negative aspects of “parenting” instead of accentuating the positives?

Do we give enough recognition to “parenting” as a country or nation?

In addition to “mothers” and “fathers” day what are the other means of acknowledging our parent informing them that their “role” is appreciated and indispensible?

In conclusion, let me reaffirm that this article is by no means exhaustive to the concept of parenting. This is only one aspect. There are many other aspects. However, I believe this “thought” probably can help in our reflection, a reflection geared truly at congratulating our parents on a job well done, in spite of it all.

May God help us all as we form our parents….



Who is responsible?

In this refection, I would like to focus on the relationship between the concept of leadership and the responsibility of those to whom this concept is exercised. The goal here is to begin a process of reflection whereby we can become more aware of our responsibility to each other and to our world. These thoughts are very simple and it is in no way comparable to the distinguished and relevant thoughts of the men and women who have already enlightened our minds and actions in this regard.

This ‘overwhelming’ faith and responsibility that humanity places on the shoulders of its leaders, a confidence that seems to abdicate our own responsibility as individuals to find amicable solutions to conflicts, calls for reflection. It is as if we have surrendered our own ability to solve issues and have given that authority to our leaders. We then expect our leaders to perform what seems to be, a kind of ‘magic,’ in solving the issues that confront us. When we do this, we seemingly put them on a pedestal that makes them super humans. Leaders come from the human “stalk.” They are humans like you and me. They come from families. However, should leaders be satisfied in reflecting the value systems already engrained in his or her society or should they attempt to transcend these acceptable norms to bring a new and more enlightened value system? The rules, laws, policies and programmes administered by any concept of leadership should not diminish the rights and responsibilities of its members as individuals, families or groups to nation building. On the contrary, it should be a complement and a catalyst in helping those entrusted to their care to critically analyse issues and to be able to manifest these analysed ideas into concrete realities for the common good. Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” or “Charity in Truth” writes, “Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. ”

I do not have the answer but I believe a possible solution to some of the major problems we face today may be found within the sphere of dialogue, mutual trust and forgiveness. Will we ever be able to sit, face each other, forgive and move on? Is that asking too much from us who form the human stalk on this earth? Sometimes we tend to forget that we are the only known ‘rational species of life’ living in this universe up to today. This implies differences and opposing views coupled with their consequences. However, it also requires from us the exercising of our ability to solve issues without resorting to violence, i.e. in an amicable manner. This capacity is inherent in every human person. It is just not developed. The human person, fundamentally good, is constantly faced with evil, and sometimes in his weakness succumbs to it. Since we did not create humanity, then the Creator has imbedded deep within every one of his creatures the ability to overcome negativity. This capacity is more fundamental to us than the reverse. Had we not this capacity, there would not have been a human being present today. The fact that we live on this earth with all our problems is itself a testimony to our ability to overcome the “badness” in us. This is a testimony to the fact that we have chosen life and not death. To ignore this is to dwell persistently in our inability to effectively address the problems that threaten us as humans in our world. Am I too naive to believe that in putting our point of emphasis in the areas of commonality and approaching our differences in a spirit of mutual respect and dialogue, the possibility for a more peaceful world would dawn on us today? Is it an opportune time to be more oriented towards serving each other, a service that is directed to the dignity of every human person? Can our differences lead us to a greater appreciation of the diversity expressed in the human world and the need for a greater fostering of dialogue, where mutual trust becomes foundational? Does forgiveness have any place in our pluralised and secularised world where so quickly our once held “common grounds” become obsolete and thus the return of the cliché “more questions than answers?”

In the final analysis, our common goal should not be about self-justification. It is not about who is right and who is wrong. The essential guiding principle for today and the future should revolve around what is important for the human as individuals, families, countries, and the world (not necessarily in this order). When will we open our eyes to see that the ultimate process to effectively beginning to solve our issues, should not “overwhelmingly” lie in the hands of our leaders, neither should it remain with those who take justice in their own hands. Rather, a consolidated programme based on dialogue, mutual trust and forgiveness should guide our actions of every individual. Coupled with this we should also add the return to basic human values of concern, caring and the respect for every individual despite his/her race, colour, creed, or sex. The basic responsibility for the world lies with every human being and not with those whom we seemingly ‘set apart’, to solve the problems to which we all have created or contributed in some way or another. Leader plays an indispensible role, but one that is understood as “being intrinsic” to humanity’s aspirations. One of the basic functions of the leader is to create an environment in which the members can be cared for; a caring that allows each to thrive, grow and to become not a superhuman but a just simply human. As a leader, I am not able to solve it all, and thus I refrain from giving such impressions. If I do the latter, I would tend to hinder the blossoming of future leaders in the home, groups, countries and the world. The challenge for all leaders is to create this formational environment.
As we continue to strive to “create” responsible men and women to lead, guide, and mould and shape us may we continue to consider the importance of every individual, an importance that needs to be felt and experienced. It is my hope that every individual will find his/her place in this world, a place that allows him/her to make a humble and valid contribution to the work of Justice and peace. I think it is an opportune time to thank all our leaders – those alive and those who have passed – for working with us in fostering programmes based on justice, peace, and responsibility.

In conclusion, I am tempted to as ask how does this reflection apply to us as Caribbean people, whose ancestors have laid the foundation for our independent states today? With the rise of secularisation, where we find it increasingly difficult to find a common ground from which we can all evolve, the need for dialogue, trust and forgiveness is even more apparent. My desire is that everyone who reads this reflection will see the task of the continued creation of our world not so much as the responsibility of his/her neighbour, but rather the responsibility of each of us, beginning with me. May we not ignore the power of ‘praying with the scriptures’ as a guide in this process. Through this meditation, we are able to enter into an experience that allows us to see, judge and act, an action that is not isolated, but one that resonates within the concepts of justice, peace and responsibility for the common good of humanity. May God bless us all in our efforts at moulding and nurturing our leaders.