Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
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Everyday Grace: Are we raising passionate kids?
(And what does passion have to do with holiness?)
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Jan. 17, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Nelson Mandela’s words speak to me of passion, of boundless enthusiasm and possibility.
How do we tap into this power beyond measure? Can we cultivate it in our children? Does it relate to holiness? I have no simple answers, but recent experiences have set me to reflecting on these questions.
I attended an intimate, living room performance by renowned guitarist Doug Smith. His fingers stretching and picking in nimble dance produced the sounds of a full-scale orchestra from his acoustic guitar. He turned crafted wood and strings of steel into grace. It appeared effortless, and yet miraculous. Most likely his music is the combination of gift and grit. Passion.
Another scene: My writer friend, Meghan, holding a copy of her first children’s book, which had just arrived from the publisher. The cover shone with the golds and browns of nature. For it’s the story of one man’s effort to restore a wetland. Meghan understands the patience, perseverance, the spark of love, or passion required for such an accomplishment. It was 14 years and innumerable pages ago that she set out to write a children’s book. She clinks her glass of champagne against mine in a toast that’s the merest token of her labors and her joys.
Even technology may incite passion. My son Brandon was three years old when he fell in love with a computer. The relationship has lasted. He began programming at age 12, borrowing advanced computer books from the library and teaching himself. At 15, he bought his own computer with money he’d been squirreling away since kindergarten.
Maybe the only thing we can do to encourage such passion, is get out of the way. But the following may also help:
Offer unconditional love. Be positive and supportive of your children’s efforts. Encourage them to try new things and explore their abilities. Given the freedom, most children will gravitate toward their natural talents.
Focus on process. Passion brings success in its own time. Focus not on winning, achievement and recognition, but on mastery of skill, the joy of creativity, the fun of participating. Don’t expect perfection. We often learn more from failure than from success.
Beware of overkill. Committing children to every class, camp or activity you can find doesn’t nurture passion. Kids need downtime to fill the well, reflect and play. We’ve all heard of some athletically gifted teenager who burned out or gave up because of a parent’s over-enthusiasm.
Own your dreams. I resisted at first when my daughter wanted to quit ballet. As a child, I’d dreamed of being a ballerina. Now she had the chance and she wasn’t interested. Painful as it was, I realized I couldn’t expect her to live out my dreams.
Set limits. The challenge for us has not been cultivating Brandon’s passion, but rather reining it in while not stunting it. In it’s very essence, passion involves the potential for irrationality and loss of control. Since the beginning we’ve put limits and conditions on his time at the computer.
Embrace your own giftedness. This discussion wouldn’t be complete without mention of the parable of the talents. When God gives a gift, God hopes for a return. If we hide our talent, neglect or belittle our passion, we not only disappoint our Creator; we deny who we are: special, unique and talented.
The rabbi Zusya told his followers: “In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ Instead, I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not Zusya?’”
God calls us to be our unique selves, whether that is a guitar virtuoso or a computer whiz. Our children may be blessed with rare or merely ordinary talent, but are extraordinary in the passion they possess, passion in the image of God.
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane freelance journalist and children’s writer.)
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