“Watch how good she’s getting at walking, Dad.” As my daughter holds out the pointer-finger on each of her hands, the tiny hands of my 9-month-old granddaughter grasp her mother’s fingers, she rises to her small feet and begins to walk toward me in response to her mother’s gentle direction.
Nearby, Daddy and Grammy beam with pride. My own face begins to display various contortions and I speak in a tone that would cause no little concern for those around me in any other circumstances. Then my granddaughter, still walking forward, begins to say over and over, “da, da,” while my daughter tries to correct her, “no, say ma, ma.” All five of us have big smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.
For countless people across countless generations, some such similar scene has and will continue to repeat itself. When it does, the world and even our innate self-centeredness are transcended by our love for the others around us. Everything seems right and peace reigns in our hearts and minds.
In the past year, my wife and I have been blessed with our first two grandchildren. As I watch the sacrifices and tenderness with which my children and their spouses are nurturing them, I am reflective, especially during this time of the year when we celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days.
I know that the multigenerational caring for one another within my family was learned by experience. But having been a police officer for 25 years, I have also seen the opposite, namely, uncaring people for whom that generational link was just as evident. No great surprise in either case, right?
But what about at the community and national levels? Doesn’t this link exist there also? Won’t our experience of a society that is intentionally just and caring, or not, influence the way we think about that society and treat others within it? Why are we surprised, then, when we meet or hear of people who are so caring or, contrariwise, so non-caring of the well-being of others?
Like my granddaughter, we don’t rise and walk alone, whether as an individual, a community or a nation. And, as in the moment with my grandchild, our greatest joys and lasting happiness are experienced in our efforts to enhance the lives of others – encouraging and helping them to rise and walk, and doing what we can so as to enable them to pursue their full potential.
But, as any responsible mother and father have found out, doing so necessitates the making of many hard decisions and constant sacrifices. Even so, in a way we could not have imagined, we find ourselves caring much more for the well-being of our child than ourselves. And this caring, this love, brings us great happiness.
Scientists tell us that nothing in the universe was formed or continues to exist all by itself. Within our world, it follows, there is no such thing as true independence. Everything has come to exist, in the way that it exists, through a web of interconnected and inseparable relationships.
Accordingly, I believe that it’s largely through the caring or uncaring relationships experienced within our own existence – in the families, communities and nation we depend upon – that the quality, character and happiness of our personal and collective lives are determined. I, we, must listen better to the quiet voice and walk more willingly with the finger that points to a parent-like love.