Swimming in the Deep End, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Swimming in the Deep End


August 9, 2010

by Josh Noem

On our recent road trip home to South Dakota for my grandfather’s funeral, we stopped at a hotel in Missoula, Montana. We picked a hotel (I won’t say which one) that a franchise guidebook indicated had a pool. After driving for 10 hours with three small children, we arrived at 9 p.m. to find it did not.

The kids were disappointed, but we filled the tub and let Simon and Lucy splash and play a bit. Oscar got to watch some TV. After voicing our complaint, the staff discounted our room, which we appreciated. The next morning, Stacey and I noticed that the hotel next door had a small outdoor pool. We could see it from the window in our room.

Before packing everyone in the car for another 10-hour drive, I decided to take the kids next door to the pool and let them burn some energy and have some fun. On the way over, Oscar noted the sign that said that the pool was for that hotel’s guests only. I told him that we’ll be okay and will only be there for a little while.

We were the only ones in the pool, but after about 30 minutes, an employee came out and asked us if we were staying with them. I said we were staying at the hotel next door and she told us we had to leave. We got out, gathered our things and went back to our room and began our long drive.

Stacey and I and Oscar had a long conversation in the car about what happened. Our conversation made me realize that Oscar closely observes my decisions, and the rationale I use and give for my decisions. He is at a stage in his development where he is discerning his moral compass. It is a gift for a parent to have influence on this stage of development. Knowing that Oscar is watching closer than ever, this gift is calling me to greater integrity and intentionality in how I live.

I realized that my own decision for using the pool was based on muddled thinking. I gave myself several half-hearted excuses to do something that I wanted for our family: we weren’t hurting anyone; we were going to use it for less than an hour; we weren’t costing the hotel anything; the kids needed some playtime before a long day in the car; we had stopped there expecting to be able to swim; etc. I found there to be a lot of grey in this situation, and in the grey areas I saw an opportunity for our kids and I took it.

When Oscar asked why we were asked to leave, and why we had decided to go in the first place (given that it was the pool of a different hotel), I stepped back and found all of my reasons disingenuous. I imagined Oscar in any number of “grey” situations as a teen and applied all of the rationales above and panicked. For example, there are things I don’t want him to do, even if he’s not hurting anyone else. Any one of these rationales used by itself would lead to a problematic moral compass.

At the bottom of it all, I decided to use the pool because after evaluating the risk, the worst thing that could happen is that we would be asked to leave. I could bear the risk of a small amount of embarrassment in return for kid time in the pool with 10 hours in the car ahead of us. This rationale is still not one I would like Oscar to use exclusively, and I also realize that strictly speaking, there is no good rationale for breaking a perfectly fair rule.

We shared all this with Oscar and asked him what he thought we should have done. He wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure myself what was the right thing to do. There were good reasons to use the pool and there would be good reasons to not use the pool. There are poor reasons to use the pool and poor reasons to not use the pool.

One thing I did learn, though: I’ll be much more careful in how I make similar decisions in the future, and I will strive for greater personal integrity and honesty, knowing that God isn’t the only one watching me.

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Abortion’s “Selma” Moment

Abortion’s “Selma” Moment

With recent revelations from Planned Parenthood about the gruesome realities of the abortion business, I believe the pro-life movement has hit its “Selma” moment, and I wanted to involve our teenage son, Oscar, in activism on this issue.

On March 7, 1965, 600 activists were beaten on their march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the denial of voting rights to black people. Images of the pogrom were broadcast on television and reported widely in the media. The images brought to naked light the racist violence that had been consistently and systematically used to oppress black people in the south.

When the rest of America saw what was happening, they could no longer ignore this racist violence, or assume it was part of an intractable problem that wasn’t their business. One week later, President Lyndon Johnson convened a special joint session of Congress and called on legislators to introduce and pass the Voting Rights Act.

This week, I watched the recent undercover exposé videos that showed conversations with doctors from the world’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood (first this, and then this, and now a very graphic video). In these conversations, the doctors describe how the abortion procedure is altered to preserve organs and body parts from fetuses to be transferred to research companies. The revelations horrified me, and many others, and are functioning as a tipping point in a similar way to the Selma beatings by bringing to naked light the true violence of “safe, legal abortion” in this nation.

In Selma, the suffering of innocent people opened the eyes of Americans everywhere and motivated decent people to step forward to demand the end of an unjust and dehumanizing system. Though abortion and “human tissue research” has been going on for years, these recent revelations have forced me to take a long, hard look at what is really at stake in the abortion issue.

True, abortion is legal in this country, and technically, research on “fetal tissue” resulting from abortions is allowable, but the fact that Planned Parenthood both offers abortions and evidently alters that procedure in order to better procure research “material” is a clear conflict of interest. It betrays their promise to serve women.

What is more, the situation presents inescapable logic that human life is destroyed in an abortion. Planned Parenthood is in the business of providing to researchers fetal organs such as hearts, lungs, and livers precisely because they are body parts from human beings—that is why they have value. And, evidently, Planned Parenthood is willing to find “less crunchy” ways to extract these body parts in their abortion procedures. They report an ability to move the baby around in the womb so that the body gets delivered first, which allows doctors to harvest the head in tact without crushing it and applying suction to remove the brain (as would normally happen in an abortion procedure). The most recent video showed medical assistants dissecting parts of a body from an abortion; they recognized the gender of the body and could not help remarking in macabre irony, “Another boy!”

That turning feeling in your stomach? It is moral revulsion. I feel it, too, and I am outraged.

U.S. taxpayers provide Planned Parenthood with $540 million every year, which implicates me directly with this system. I decided that it is time for me to more forcefully and publicly declare my opposition to it. I refuse to be associated with this atrocity. This situation has moved me from being a concerned and motivated voter to an activist.

I immediately wrote my senator and asked him to support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1553) currently in front of Congress, but felt motivated to respond in other ways. In 50 years, when my grandchildren look back at the early years of this century and wonder how abortion was ever tolerated, I want them to know that I was a decent person.

So, I joined the local #WomenBetrayed rally on July 28 (it was one of more than 60 nation-wide), and I invited Oscar to participate. At 14, he will be a freshman in high school this fall, and I thought this was a good opportunity to expose him to active citizenship and public ethical discourse, and to prompt him to begin making his own moral judgments.

I shared with him the videos in question, as well as some commentary (including the response from Planned Parenthood’s president). I invited him to think about the situation and how he might respond, if at all. Then we started having a conversation.

He explained that he didn’t think that protests did much good because they only voiced positions that are already known—they rarely gather enough participants to effect change.

I suggested that he could channel his response in another way—through advocacy or volunteering at our local women’s pregnancy center. I also explained my own reasoning for publicly protesting in this issue. I said that I am of course invested in changing the system, but my participation in the demonstration also has to do with the value of the protest itself as an act of witness and identity. I told him that I wanted to be counted among those who stood for what is right, who opposed the obvious evil in our midst.

I gave him more time to think about it, and told him he was welcome to join me, that I’d like to have him come, but he should make his own decision.

And without prodding or pressure, he did—he decided to accompany me on the protest. So, we dressed up—if we were taking a public stand, we wanted to be taken seriously—and we prepared statements to explain ourselves in case anyone asked us why we were participating.

His statement actually deepened my own activism—he said that he opposed Planned Parenthood because they were desecrating the bodies of the deceased. In effect, our witness is a work of mercy: to bury the dead. I had never considered the abortion issue in this light before.

I was proud of him, and I was proud to stand for life with him. Together, we will stand on the right side of history.


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