April 7, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Understanding and retaining a childlike spirit

Last month, the Meister family gathered around a “birthday boy.”

Like an ancient Greek chorus, we read in unison these lines from one of A.A. Milne’s famous Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh children’s books:

“When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly Me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

Sam’s bright eyes and smile told us he was pleased with how his sixth birthday party began.

The following Monday, my husband, Paul, and I went into his kindergarten class to mark his new age—as we had also done during his pre-school years. With the teacher’s permission, I read Milne’s poem then an appropriate book about “building words,” which I donated to the class. At the end, Paul photographed the children with their teacher just as he’d done in previous years.

We don’t see Sam as often as we did our 22-year-old grandson, David, because David lived closer in northern Indiana. Sam, however, lives in northern Ohio.

Paul and I attended as many school and sports events as we could when David was younger. In fact, I sometimes made the trip myself at times when my husband could not. We especially relished Grandparents’ Day each year during David’s lower school years as well as the special times when our family celebrated his early birthdays.

As our grandsons and daughters and we age, family get-togethers become more and more precious. They are also more difficult to plan and attend, but they are essential in keeping the bonds of love and appreciation healthy.

Naturally, special events—such as wedding or graduations—are wonderful but it is during the more relaxed gatherings that we really get to know one another better.

Turning 6 or 16 or 60—and any number before, in between, or after—is a time to celebrate and renew family ties.

Still, families are more than those who are related to each other. In similar ways, our friends and neighbors can be considered extended family, too.

This is especially true in parishes that foster working together toward a variety of goals, whether spiritual, practical, financial, social or outreach. A parish is strongest when all ages of life are taken into consideration.

But because children are the nation’s future, we should concentrate on their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being as well as their education. And as adults, we need to retain a youthful spirit in us—as suggested by Christ in Matthew 18.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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