I’m coming to the end of my current stage of parenting. My children are 16, 18 and 20 and they are either in college or longing to go. My years of playdates and carpools, concerts and recitals, winter breaks and summer camps will be over. Bed time stories, science projects, permission slips, field trips and foster kittens. Check, check and double check.
For twenty years, I have invested most of my time and talent and, what feels like nearly all of my treasure, in parenting.
I look back on this time and I’m happy. I feel reasonably satisfied that I did the best i could. I have tried to be loving and generous with my children. And I hope they will feel the same now that they are launching into the world.
I send them off with a piece of advice that only a mother could give: Go make yourself useful.
I probably can’t set the bar higher than that.
Go make yourself useful.
Serve others. Show compassion. Give generously.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are tasked with the same mandate. Called to “Go make ourselves useful.” The bumper sticker on my car says so. “Unitarian Universalists---Our Service is Our Prayer.”
Social Justice, racial justice, environmental action. Each cause a chance to serve others and show our compassion.
And yet we must give generously, too. Generosity is the investment we willingly make in our future. We don’t do it because we have to. We do it because we want to. Because we believe we will make a difference. Not right away maybe. Sometimes not for many months. Or years.
Just ask the Church Governance Task Force. Or the Building and Grounds Task Force. Or the Green Sanctuary Committee . Folks who were more than generous with their time and talents. yet had to wait ……..and wait……..and wait……….for their hard work to pay off.
And parents. We don’t read just one bedtime story hoping to foster a love of reading in our offspring. I read hundreds of books dozens of times. Everything from Goodnight Moon to Goodnight Gorilla. I memorized those books. I can recite them in my sleep. All with my eyes on an uncertain prize that was years off.
Generosity is what makes us rummage around in the bottom of a purse or pocket, looking for that last bit of spare change. Generosity keeps us up late and wakes us up early to support causes like PACEM and IMPACT. It finds time in the schedule for one more patient or client or student or friend. Our family, our church, our community. Generosity is the fertilizer we scatter around the bare trees that we might see fruit in the fall.
For the closing words, I’m going to read you a book.
As it was published in 1947, I’m hoping most of us are familiar with it in some way.
It’s quite short and the plot is not hard to follow. There’s a baby bunny and the bunny’s mommy. They wind down for bedtime by saying Goodnight to all the objects in the room.
Spoiler Alert…….At the end of the book, the baby bunny is asleep.
When I used this book was a bedtime story, my children were not always asleep after just one reading. Eventually the words in the book became more prayer than poem and I said said an entire rosary every night trying to achieve the same results as the Mommy-bunny. I know this book inside-out, upside-down and backwards.
Now I am not reading you this book because I think it’s naptime. Although there are those who say the sound of my voice will put them to sleep.
I am reading this book as a reminder of just how generous we all can be. I invite you to look back into your memory. To a time when you read a bedtime story for the 1000th time. The times you rearranged your schedule, stayed up late or got up early. When you looked for spare change not just in your purse or pocket but in the cupholder, under the seat and in the glove box.
When we go that extra mile, when we willingly lovingly give our time, our talents and our treasures, our generosity makes all the difference.
We are investing in the future.
We are making ourselves useful.
© Lorie Craddock
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown