catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 7 :: 2011.04.08 — 2011.04.21


A hand-me-down life

My daughter sleeps in a crib that she did not have to buy.  And it’s an expensive one.  She eats without having to prepare her meal; she doesn’t even have to lift the bottle.  And when she’s dirty, she doesn’t have to clean herself up or change her poopy diaper.  She’s a needy little creature, who doesn’t say thank you, or tell her mother and father that she appreciates them.  It seems selfish, to be a newborn.

I don’t mean to come across as insensitive.  I’m very much aware that I was a baby at one time, and that I embodied this approach to life just as my daughter does.  It makes me grateful toward my own parents for the love they gave me — that they never gave up on me, never neglected me and made their own lives harder in order to make mine easier.  Out of gratitude, I want to be a parent who is humble enough to forego his own desires in order to nurture those of a child.

My wife and I resemble many American parents these days who are no longer within a financial comfort zone.  At times, we wonder if we’ll even make it through the next month.  Having a baby makes it that much harder.  Yet we’re surviving, and we will continue to do so, I believe, as long as we trust God’s provision.  I see now, when I look back, that even in a household of eight children with a dad who had an average job, we were never in need.  We lived in want, with our hand-hand-me-down clothing and with generic brands of food from Aldi.  But I was never hungry, I was never thirsty and I would never trade my upbringing for all the riches of the earth. 

You see, growing up as I did has taught me, now that I have a child of my own, that it doesn’t have to be easy.  It can be difficult, and difficulty can strengthen our conviction that we will never be asked to struggle with more than we can stand.  If that means reaching zero in our checking account by the middle of the month, then that is fine, because I trust that somehow my child will not go hungry.  And I believe that she will have clothing, whether they are hand-me-downs or new.  Yes, she might grow up comparing herself to other children whose parents are much wealthier than we are, but my hope is that she’ll learn from her parents that she has more than enough.

Whenever I speak with my father about parenting, he expresses his amazement at how he and my mother survived having eight children.  I only have one child, and I feel like it’s a challenge to support a family of three.  I’m not sure how he kept his sanity, but the fact that he did assures me that in eighteen years or so, I’ll still have mine.  Raising a family is hard, but it reveals to me that I have more than I should ever want and all that I’ll ever need.  This isn’t to say that tomorrow we won’t go utterly broke and be living on the street.  But even the poor seem to survive somehow, and at the end of life, that seems to be all that matters: that we live out our days the best we can, not on the basis of having all that we want, but by being content with what has been given to us.  All that we have is enough.

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