Parents pass on their fund of wisdom not for the sake of preserving thewisdom itself, but to help the child flourish. Above all, parentalempowerment consists of providing a child with a history, a story, anidentity.
Most parents I know want their children to be believers, to have faith, tolive by a set of values, or to know who they are. In part this knowing whoyou are comes from knowing one's unique family history--where your peoplecome from, what they did, what they stood for.
Whether your ancestors were Irish immigrants who worked as laborers whenthey came to the New World or they were from the literati of Latin America,whether your grandmother had a deep devotion to the rosary or worked so thatwomen might have the vote, whether your uncle was a Jesuit priest or yournephew was healed of cancer through charismatic prayer--all of this is partof your story, part of knowing who you are.
Parents also pass on a deeper identity, too: a knowledge of themselves asbeloved children of God. This they do by immersion in a community of faiththat continues to tell the great, primal stories of our creation andredemption by God. They impart this identity by living faithfullythemselves, witnessing to the depth of the faith they embrace, unleashingits truths in their lives.
February 1985. My husband shows up with a letter our daughter has given himto address and send. This is during a time when, as part of our faithwitness to social justice, we are observing a boycott of Campbell's Soupbecause of a strike levied by workers in the tomato fields. The letterreads:Dear President of Campbell's Soup,
I like your soup, but my daddy refuses to buy me it because you do not payyour workers enough to eat. Please pay your workers enough so I can eat it.And so they can eat too.
P.S. In the long run you will be paying yourself.
It's not the particulars of the letter or the cause that touches me but thefact that somewhere in my daughter's vision of what the world can be is asense that there are alternatives to the way things are done. In some wayshe knows that her world embraces the marginalized and the forgotten. And itgives me pride as a parent to know that we've given her this.