Cotton for the ears

“He who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).

What does it mean to “hear” the cries of the poor?

(Full disclosure: God help me, I’m a middle-class white suburban homeschool mom – so, yes, I’m looking at this verse from this perspective.)

I think it means we pay attention.

I think it means we actually look at the homeless person standing with the cardboard sign at the intersection. It is a person, after all, not a droid.

I think it means we notice the woman with a stroller walking down the six-lane, sidewalk-free suburban shopping boulevard. Would she walk her baby along such a road if she had a reliable car?

I think it means we watch the hard movies – Selma, Hotel Rwanda, Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful, The Pursuit of Happyness, etc. Yes, they’re heartbreaking. Yes, they are difficult because they show our cruelty and callousness towards one another. But if they call out our latent courage and compassion, if they inflame our hearts toward advocacy and justice, they have worthwhile, redemptive value.

I think it means we pay attention to the news. (And by “news” I certainly don’t mean our Facebook or Twitter “news” feeds.) It means we stay educated about the lives of the poor in our own community (not just the local homeless shelter but also access to fresh food and quality schools and decent healthcare). And stay educated about the lives of the poor around the globe. Who speaks up for child labor laws, for poor farmers, for residents of slums in world cities, and rural residents with little to no access to education, healthcare, or a justice system that actually honors rule of law? This requires watching and reading beyond the Sports and Lifestyle pages or channels.

I think it means listening to those who work with them day in and day out. The employees and volunteers at the shelters, the Salvation Army, the Department of Social Services, the state-run nursing homes, the emergency room – what do they see, do, and say? They’re in the trenches – we need to give extra credence to their input.

It means my ears should be open. That is, I can’t go ostrich and stick my head in the sand. I can’t live in my safe (gated?) community, stay behind my 8-foot privacy fence, only be friends with people who think and shop and value and vote and raise their kids like me.

suburban poverty

I’ve got to be outside my own comfort zone – not for the length of a church-sponsored activity (mission trip, anyone?) or the forced confines of hopefully brief jury duty obligation.

How can I hear the poor if I’ve surrounded myself – even unintentionally – with the non-poor?

The answer is, I can’t. If I have any expectation of hearing the voice of the poor, I will have to intentionally get out of my middle-class bubble.

And how can I hear the poor if I am too busy? If I’m piddling from this store and that errand and this meeting and that event, consumed with myself and my family, I can’t. There has to be some margin – i.e., quiet – in my life so that the tired voices of the poor can reach my distracted, selfish ears.

And then, heaven help us, I can’t claim ignorance, and I’m responsible to respond in some Christ-like manner.

Which is a good pressure to be under.

Also – I want my cries to be heard, too. Don’t you?

Crucial Note: I have SO SO far to go in this. I mean, SO far.

Published in: on January 27, 2016 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The BHAG of homeschool

(BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal, term coined by business guru Jim Collins in Built To Last)

What I want to impart to my children through homeschooling

Oh, lots of things, like a commendable knowledge of Shakespeare. And a firm grasp of the basic laws of physics. And enough history to serve as wise caution to their contemporaries. Maybe some programming skills and how to draw more than stick figures.

It’d be nice if their Editor Mama wasn’t embarrassed by their writing, either.

But of course I have loftier goals. Super-noble ones, maybe. Idealistic ones, without a doubt.

So, in my whopping second year of homeschooling, while I am still wet behind the ears and not exhausted yet (at least not every day), while I’m still enthusiastic, herewith, my four over-arching goals in homeschooling (however long it lasts, and certainly even outside of it). I’ve even included my naïve “how tos.”

  1. I want them to love learning.

Humans are born loving to learn; school so often sucks the life out of that natural joy. I don’t want my kids to lose it. I want them to remain intensely, unapologetically curious all of their lives. It expands life far beyond circumstance, curiosity does. Sure, they’ll need to learn some things they’re not already interested in; that’s life. But I want those begrudging, tolerant periods to be few and far between.


How do I do this?

By being curious myself. Reading the sports section even when I don’t much care. Listening to friends – okay, making friends – of truly divergent backgrounds (not just the variations on a white suburban theme, even if, God help me, that’s what I am). Speaking more questions than answers…or even opinions.

I feel certain if I’m enthusiastically curious about all manner of things, my children will be too.

  1. I want them to learn how to learn.

I want them to have the skills to teach themselves – the reading, the researching, the strategic quests. I want them to know what and where their resources are, and how to access and best utilize them.

This isn’t just the ability to ask Siri a question. It’s knowing Siri, or whatever iteration of Siri is trendy at the moment, is there, and while easy, Siri is and always will be vastly insufficient. It’s knowing how to access the world’s libraries and the world’s great thinkers past & present. It’s the recognition that some of their best learning resources are actually people, and knowing how to find them and learn from them.

If they can learn how to learn, they can learn anything.

They don’t need to regurgitate facts or philosophies. But they need to know how to learn the facts and philosophies.

How do I this?

By showing them how I learn. By introducing them to my sources of news, and to my library (physical & virtual). By showing them how to navigate to the library down the road, and the Internet and the libraries available on line. By giving them opportunities to interact with experts in various fields of interest.

Basically, if I know how to learn and show them my methods, they will know how to learn, too. Okay, hopefully, anyway.

  1. I want them to be critical thinkers.

Of course I mean this in the classical sense of “thinking things through,” not “criticizing everything they hear.”

I want them to question their own assumptions, and the presuppositions behind those, and the assumptions behind those, and….etc. The world is entirely too full of people who’ve never seriously questioned their own beliefs, worldviews, or even opinions. But an honest dealing with questions is essential to a solid foundation of any thought. I want my children to ask those questions…without fear.

It’s equally important that they learn how to filter the noise; weed through the, um, crap that the world tries to pass (re: sell) as answers; discern the ads from the content and the truth from the dribble. I want them to look at sources critically – even those with whom they agree. I want them to question others’ presuppositions and assumptions, too.

But never with a spirit of rebellion, only with a humble spirit of honest searching for truth. “Question authority”? Yes. But with humility, with a desire for Truth, with a goal of doing Right.

How do I do this?

By questioning, myself. Not believing what I see or hear because it agrees with me or makes me feel vindicated or happy, but digging below the surface, to the sources, to the motives, to the agendas (hidden or blatant, understood or not). This means that, when necessary, I’m willing to change my opinion, my approach, even (with a few notable exceptions) my beliefs, as I learn and mature.

If my children hear me asking questions of others, without fear, they will feel comfortable doing the same.

If they hear me question myself – if they see I can be persuaded, that I can modify as I learn – they will be comfortable with the same kind of growth. They’ll avoid dogmatism, hopefully – an ism that never did much good!

And if I question my children – honestly with a view toward understanding and growth, not just being contrary – perhaps they will learn to question themselves in similarly healthy ways.

  1. I want them to love like Jesus loves.

This is a “duh” for my family. We want our children to love themselves and others the way Jesus loves. Which of course is unconditional, gracious, patient, compassionate, honest. This love accepts both self and Other as they are, but is not content to leave either one as they are; it’s a Love that desires and urges maturity, and is willing to sacrifice to achieve it. It’s a Love that aims for holiness and wholeness – not happiness.

It’s a Love that reaches across all lines to offer help, to stand alongside, to lift up, to teach, to protect, and to share Life and Truth.

I want my children to love this way. It’s how Jesus loves us, how I want to love them, and how I fervently pray they will love themselves and others.

How do I do this?

Well, the maxim comes to mind:

“We teach what we know. We reproduce who we are.”

May I love like Jesus. May I teach like Jesus. May my children and I all grow to be more like Jesus. Every day, into eternity.



Published in: on January 6, 2016 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment