A Parent’s Perspective
When I was a child, it was a regular week-end job to lay down newspaper, take out the box of polishes, cloths and brushes and set to work on the family’s various boots and shoes. It was usually a job for two and my brother or sister and I would take a lot of pride in producing a top-class shine.
Shoes with worn down heels or soles were dispatched to the local cobbler and were passed down the line to younger siblings until they were just too worn out to repair any longer. There wasn’t a lot of excess money floating around and, with six children and a teacher’s pay, my parents went to a lot of bother to make sure that we got the maximum usage out of everything we purchased.
They both had lived through the Emergency, and remembered the days of food coupons and rationing. My father went to boarding school and often told us how he always ate what was put in front of him in the sure knowledge that nothing else would be provided.
My parents have both passed away now but I wonder what they’d make of the recent scenes from Electric Picnic where bulldozers had to be used to clear the thousands of tents and personal items that were left behind after the festival.
According to those left with the unenviable task of clearing up the mess, all sorts of items were just cast aside including air mattresses, iPods, camping equipment and headphones.
There was genuine shock expressed on social media as pictures and videos appeared showing the sea of tents with beer cans, debris and litter strewn everywhere. This was the chaos left by the generation who grew up with the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and who attended schools where there was a huge focus on earning the Green Flag award.
The much-desired prize demonstrates a school’s efforts to focus on the environment and sustainability and to teach students about the importance of looking after their schools, their localities, their country and their world. It was a theme that was touched upon frequently during the recent World Meeting of Families.
Week to remember
There has been a lot of reporting on the very successful visit of Pope Francis to Ireland. It was a whirlwind of a week for me and my family. I’d pressured my husband to take a week of his summer holidays so we could get the full benefit of the occasion, a decision he doesn’t regret as it was definitely a week to remember.
From the excitement of the launch which was celebrated in dioceses all over the country, to the final farewells after the Mass in the Phoenix Park, it was an amazing few days. I had booked tickets for the whole family to attend the three-day Pastoral Congress in the RDS which had something for everyone.
I still have brightly coloured bags all over the house packed full of prayers, pencils and medals and countless pamphlets and leaflets outlining the great work that the Catholic and Christian communities in Ireland and overseas are engaged in. The children all got copies of the newly launched YOUCAT for Kids which I think every parent should invest in.
There was a packed agenda of workshops and talks but, on the theme of the throwaway culture, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila’s presentation was outstanding. He linked the document of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) to Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) pointing out the connection between the casual discarding of machines, gadgets and belongings with the view that even human beings can be viewed as discardable commodities.
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis refers to the words of Pope Benedict XVI where he urges us to realise that creation is harmed “when we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone”. He cautioned that the misuse of creation begins when we see nothing else but ourselves.
Cardinal Tagle, talking to a crowded room in the RDS, outlined the concept of planned obsolescence, a strategy used by manufacturers to ensure that a product becomes out of date or useless within a limited period of time. I loved his personal story of wearing an old, but much-loved watch that his parents gave him as a young man, resisting the pressure to replace it with a newer model.
The lack of care for our surroundings, our environment and our lovely planet displays a lack of love for those who we share our planet with. People were shocked at the attitudes that some abandoned tents symbolised but a sadder thought to reflect on is that, not too long ago, people in Ireland voted to make certain human beings disposable and of lesser value. Cardinal Tagle mentioned unborn children, the elderly, migrants, those with disabilities, prisoners and other marginalised groups that are increasingly viewed as of lesser value.
Maybe, as parents, we need to start early and teach our children to polish those shoes, repair that item, dispose of that rubbish and value the dignity of every single human being. Care for our common home is not just a green issue, it’s an issue about how we value the great gift that our earth is and the even greater gift God gives us in each and every human being.