Our then 4-year-old daughter decided that she’d had enough. We’d heard the complaints about a small group of boys in her preschool class and their trucks for a while. I can’t remember now exactly what it was the boys were doing with those trucks, except that they were breaking preschool truck rules in a way our daughter deemed dangerous.
On this particular day, when she had reached her breaking point, she marched over to the little group of boys, looked each of them straight in the eye, and made her grand announcement: “Jesus sees everything you are doing.” Then she turned on her heels, and marched quickly away.
This spooked the boys enough to send them scampering to the preschool teacher. They pointed accusing fingers at our daughter: “You know what she said? She said Jesus sees everything we do! That’s not true is it?” The boys sought vindication. They were seeking truth in a “Oh, say it ain’t so,” kind of way. To their astonishment, and to their dismay, the teacher replied “Oh, yes, boys, it is very true. Jesus does see everything we do.” The truck problem disappeared after that.
This is the same child who, at about the same age, while watching a rosary videotape depicting the scourging at the pillar, threw herself on the floor in a heap of tears sobbing “Look what they did to Him! Look what they did to Him! Mommy do you see that?” Then she turned to look at me. “Mommy, why aren’t you crying? Why are you just sitting there? Why aren’t you crying?” And I had no answer for her. Inwardly my answer was perhaps because sometimes I am more jaded or distracted than I ought to be; perhaps because I don’t feel the pain of Christ’s suffering the way I should; or perhaps because you love God more than I do, little one — and I do not love God in the way that I ought.
And this very same child, now age 11, returned home from school recently talking about a grade on a math test that had gone from a 100 to a 90 and then to a 95. We were far into discussion of this complicated scenario before what had happened became apparent to me. The test had been handed back as a 100, when she noticed an incorrect answer that wasn’t marked wrong. Knowing her grade would be marked down to a 90 she promptly handed the test back to the teacher for the proper correction. The teacher “split the difference” with her and gave her a 95 — an extra five points for “being honest.” She relayed this story then skipped off to her favorite pastime of sketching horses, leaving me in the kitchen to savor the moment along with my lemon herb tea. The children can bring home all kinds of certificates and awards, but for us Catholic moms none of those things can beat moments like these when honesty triumphs, truth prevails, and we sit back to savor the moment and think “they’re really understanding this.”
Understanding what? Understanding truth. Understanding that despite the teachings of the world, there really is a moral right and a moral wrong. Understanding that this right and wrong depends not on what we can get away with, not on what we can verbally weasel our way out of (whether in a classroom or in a courtroom) but on what Christ would have us do.
It starts with little things of course. It starts with little children breaking classroom rules about trucks and what ought to be done to correct them. Sometimes because rules are broken, a child might get hurt. But sometimes no one seems hurt at all. The children shrug their shoulders and say, “Who does it hurt?”
The children grow up. They become teens who think it is okay to sneak alcohol illegally on the weekend if they can get their homework done and recover in time for school and their track meet on Monday. By now the small boy has moved on from playing with trucks to driving them. Because he can drive, and thinks he can drink, he may mix the two. Sometimes there is an alcohol-related auto accident, and a teen may be paralyzed or may die. But sometimes no one seems hurt. The teens brush this off, easily shrug their shoulders and say, “Who does it hurt?” The teens grow up.
The teens join us in the world of decision-making adults. Now the stakes are even higher. Moral decisions face us daily. The little boy who long since gave up toy trucks and learned to drive now has a job in which he is in charge of cars and their manufacturing. By cutting corners and jeopardizing safety, he can increase profits. What will he do? Will he shrug his shoulders and say, “Who does it hurt?”
What decisions are we making? Perhaps my company is contaminating the local river with carcinogens. Perhaps I am a construction worker building a new home with a boss calling me to cut corners in an unsafe and sloppy way. Perhaps I am a doctor or nurse who must make daily decisions about life and death. Perhaps I am a pregnant mom whose own doctor is pressing me for an abortion. These decisions press upon us in our lives today. What moral compass guides the decisions that are made? Are we guided by the laws of Christ as handed down through our Church, or are we guided by what we can get away with? Do we realize God is watching everything we do, or do we arbitrarily make decisions that make us personally feel good for a while, shrug our shoulders and then say something like, “Who does it hurt?”
Who does it hurt? We Christians know full well Who it hurts! It hurts Christ. It smashes the crown of thorns into His head and scourges Him at the pillar yet again. It hurts not just Christ but His entire body. It hurts us all.
“Mommy, why aren’t you crying?”
My good Christian reader, why aren’t we crying?
©2006 Mary Anne Moresco