Happily Even After
Talking to Our Kids About the Typhoon
By Josh Noem
I was captivated by the tragedy that hit the Philippines this month. The crisis of losing family members and possessions would be devastating for anyone, but to think of the thousands of people who are experiencing that now is overwhelming.
Whenever bad news such as a natural disaster strikes, we don’t shield the children from it. There are limits, of course—we will prevent them from listening to a graphic report on the radio, for example—but we will not shy away from letting them encounter suffering in the world. We just make sure that they hear it from us, and have a context in which to understand it.
For example, when news came pouring in about the Philippines, we talked with the kids about it, explaining what happened and the damage it caused. We looked at photos on the Internet of the storm and the towns that were wiped out. We discussed how some families had been torn apart and that many people were hurting.
Then we did something about it.
First, we prayed. We keep the people of the Philippines in the prayers we say as a family every night.
Then, we gave money to the Catholic Relief Service to be used to provide emergency services. Stacey and I had decided to give a sum of money, and we encouraged the children to offer something from what they had saved from birthdays and other gifts. Gently, gently, gently, we told them about the children who are suffering in the Philippines, and that their money could buy a little girl a meal, or a little boy some new clothes. In the end, each of them gave more than ten percent of what they had.
Simon is preparing to receive his first Communion in the spring, and this kind of formation feeds right into what he will experience in the Eucharist.
He has always been a very sensitive boy—he’s asked two or three times if the people in the Philippines have received the money that we sent them. In a real and tangible way, he is experiencing solidarity with people across the globe. Soon, that solidarity will be transformed into his experience of the reality of the Body of Christ.
When he receives his first Communion, he will become more fully a member of the Body of Christ in the world. The prayer and the piggy bank money he offered is feeding that broken body now. Helping him step into that brokenness is not unrelated to the Body of Christ that is taken, blessed, broken, and shared in the Eucharist. He is entering into a mystery—in his giving and receiving, he is participating in the love of God.
Of course, he does not have the theological terms to describe it that way, but the feeling and the experience are the same—through Christ’s humanity and divinity, he is fundamentally connected to other people across time and space, and never so closely as when he receives the Eucharist.
This is what we want for our children—to be unafraid of suffering and to know how to look death in the face and respond with hope.
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