Count your blessings and pass them on

by Melanie Sisinni

Someone always needs help breaking up a fight, finding something that has been lost, fixing a broken Barbie leg, or making a weird trail mix of spicy pretzels and fruit snacks. (All real scenarios in the Sisinni household.) The list goes on and on. It’s kind of what you sign up for when you become a parent.

kidsBefore I go any further, I would like to say that I know I am blessed to have three intelligent, funny and sometimes very loud children, as well as a thankfully work-from-home part-time job. However, more than one feeling can exist at the same time. While I know I am blessed, sometimes I feel overwhelmed and wish my kids understood that mommy only has two hands and a very limited amount of sanity left when daddy comes home at 6 p.m.

While my son is still too small to understand the concept of patience as a virtue as I scramble to refill his plate of blueberries, I am trying to teach my two (slightly) older children that they may have to wait to have their needs fulfilled, or — GASP! — try to complete a task on their own before Mommy can come to help them. Part of this strategy involves my attempts to teach them an awareness that they are not the only people with needs.

The concept of patience and autonomy starts with the basic idea that we are part of a greater whole, and each of us has something we can contribute to that whole. My children are each a fifth of our family. Our family is one small part of our parish. Our parish is one part of the diocese, and so on. Being part of a family, a parish and even a diocese means helping each other whenever possible.

Matthew 25:36-40 is a great place to start when discussing this concept with children. To paraphrase, these are the verses where Jesus says, “What you have done for the least of my brothers, you have done for me.”

Breaking this down further, I can explain this to my oldest daughter by telling her that whenever she helps her little sister open her fruit snacks or helps her brother get a toy he can’t reach, she loves them the way God loves them. She’s also helping me with small acts of service, giving me more time to help her with what she needs.

When our parish or my daughter’s school has a food drive or a fundraiser, I try to donate and tell my kids we are participating. We discuss who the food is going to, who we are buying an extra Christmas present for or who we are making a meal for, so they understand that we are trying to pass our blessings to other people when we can. I hope that these small acts of service we carry out for people in our community are helping my kids to understand they are not the number one person in existence.

Though my kids are small and have a long way to go, our goal is progress, not perfection. I know that for the next few years, I will be the person my kids come to when they need something, but at some point in the future, they will start to lean on each other a little more. And maybe, as a result of our encouragement along the way, it will be natural for them to engage in service projects for other people, knowing that it feels good to help others, and that’s what Jesus has asked us to do.

- Melanie Sisinni oversees social media for the Diocese of Erie and serves as editor of the Diocese of EriE-News.