Salt of the earth

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Recently I spoke with two people, not connected with each other in any way, who — funny enough — used the same phrase to describe their plight: “No good deed goes unpunished.” I found them both inspiring and asked each to give me permission to share their stories and thoughts.

The first person I spoke with was a dad who shared with me the difficulty he has faced over the years with imposing discipline on his youngest son — who is now an adult — who always had a mind of his own. The greatest challenge he faced, though, was not from his son but from the parents of his sons’ friends who, he said, don’t share his commitment to imposing consequences for unacceptable behavior. He told me that one time when his son’s grades in two classes had dropped to failures, he told the boy’s baseball coach to sit his son out from the next game. It was an important game, and the boy was a key player. The coach wholeheartedly agreed. But during the game the parents attending the game, after discovering the reason for the boy’s being benched, reamed the father out and told him his priorities were “all screwed up.” One of the parents yelled into his face, “I don’t give a shit what he does in geometry or biology! What’s that got to do with this game?” He said, “I calmly said back, ‘It means I’m teaching him about real life priorities.'” He went on to tell me,

I try not to get angry and judge these folks, but it seems so many parents these days give their kids seriously screwed up messages about life’s priorities and make their kids believe life owes them something. I say, if you teach your kids now that you have to do your part in life, work hard and accept the consequences for your poor decisions, later they will be ready to contribute as good citizens and good Christians. I wanted my son to think real hard about the effect his bad decisions had on his team before he’d go and blow off his schoolwork again. … These parents become slaves to their kids’ whims, and are afraid to say “no” to them. I’m glad my mom and dad were tough on me, but I couldn’t see it when I was young. Now I can see the dark alleys I would have gone down without their iron resolve. The hardest thing to do as a parent, I think, is to make tough decisions to save your kids from bad influences or steer them away from bad choices. It’s hard to have your kid say they hate you. Rather have them hate me now than hate me later. Like with me, I hope my son will see I was helping him learn now the hard lessons life will throw at him one day. Sometimes love means your kids hate you for a while, but that’s okay because it’s not about me. I’m a dad for my son’s benefit, not mine. We reap what we sow, and one day we’re gonna find ourselves with a country full of outta control takers, not givers and sacrificers who put family, country and others first. Look, these kids know exactly what’s going on, that their parents’ll take their side on almost anything and let ’em get away with anything. They eat it up. They’ll play it up to the nth degree. Give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile. I’ve had a lot of hard jobs over the years, but being a parent’s the toughest job there is. But the best.

The pain in his eyes burned into me.

The second person I spoke with was a young lady — in her late 20’s — who shared with me her commitment to chastity in dating. In particular, she shared how that commitment had led, over the last several years, to her losing several relationships with guys who had shown serious long-term interest in her (and she in them). But all of them, when they finally realized that she is not willing to have sex before marriage, excused themselves in one way or another from the relationship. “Even with the churchgoing guys,” she said, “it seems next to impossible to find a man who thinks waiting is the way to go.” She added, “I tell these guys: ‘Seriously? That’s all you’re in this for?’ I told one of them, if you can’t give that up for me now, what won’t you be able to give up later? … It’d be totally nice to have some chivalry make a comeback. Yeah, I know, dream on. But I haven’t given up.”

For both of them, faith played a large role in giving them strength to carry on. The father mentioned his parish priest’s powerful preaching that helped him get through every week. “He preaches from the heart. I can relate to him. It’s like God’s talking directly to me. Gives me hope to keep going. He totally gets what we go through. He knows we got it tough. And he’s not phony. Not like some other priests — no offence intended — who seem to preach only into the clouds. I think the difference is he gets to know us and listens to us. So he gets us.”  The young woman said “clinging to prayer” was what kept her strong and hopeful. She said (as she shed tears), “I talk to Jesus all the time about this. I’m very honest. And He’s honest back. I don’t always like His answers, and I don’t think He always likes to hear what I have to say, either. But I always know He’s got my back. I always tell Him I’ve got a long list of questions for Him that I’ll ask when I see Him one day. I’m sure He’s got one for me, too.”

I want to kiss their feet. These people are the ones Jesus in Matthew 5:13 called the “salt of the earth.” Salt, in the ancient world, was not used principally for flavoring food but to keep it from rotting. So salty people keep culture from going rotten. That’s what Christians, clinging to Christ the Rock, are called to be.

It is often said nowadays that the present century thirsts for authenticity. Especially in regard to young people it is said that they have a horror of the artificial or false and that they are searching above all for truth and honesty. These “signs of the times” should find us vigilant. Either tacitly or aloud — but always forcefully — we are being asked: Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? Our evangelizing zeal must spring from true holiness of life. — Blessed Paul VI

4 comments on “Salt of the earth

  1. Ben says:

    My parents pulled me out of many sports activities because of bad grades. They made the rules real clear up front so I could only be upset with myself. Taught me some good lessons as well.

    Thanks for sharing this Tom.

  2. Jennifer says:

    “I try not to get angry and judge these folks, but it seems so many parents these days give their kids seriously screwed up messages about life’s priorities and make their kids believe life owes them something.” Before waking up to my faith, I honestly used to be those parents… and not because it was thoughtless, I seriously thought about what I was doing and thought it was the enlightenend, progressive, way to parent (obviously not believing that it was screwed up). I really think it is an inevitable outcome of the messages that this culture of death and hyper-individualism teaches. Even when I was studying to be a teacher, we were being taught -though of course not in so many words- really, to appease to children’s self-centredness in motivating them. The message is everywhere. There is this crazy idea that children will just become magically altruistic after a lifetime of being over-indulged and catered to, because having all their needs and wants constantly met will make them so satisfied with life that they will naturally strive to share the goodness of the bounty. Kinda like life in the spirit leaves to living in the overflow of God’s love and mercy…except without God, replacting Him with the stuff. Hmmm… anyone else pick up on the idolatry?

    Fortunately my husband has old-school parents and he never bought into that garbage, so our kids haven’t been entirely scarred lol but it is a major effort of my time to play catch-up and re-programming. (Yes, I am brainwashing my children 😉 ) and bucket loads of praying for God’s forgiveness and that this too can be redeemed and used for their good. God bless your many salty friends and may God’s merciful love and light shine on those in the darkness, leading them home.

  3. n.o.s. says:

    When my now 11 year old granddaughter was two and a half she and her mom lived at home with us . We were watching a movie on tv when she started to act up quite loudly . She was told by her mom my daughter to stop , she did not. My daughter again admonished her to stop ,she did not. When my kids were little my technique was to count down from 5 to1 and GOD help you if I reached 1 . I had never used this method on mygranddaughter be cause she had always obeyed grampys requests . Well I asked her to please sit down and be quiet as she was being naughty. She looks me in the eye and promptly tells me no with a swagger. It was all I could do to keep from roaring out loud it was so funny to see this 2.5 year old hands on hips head cocked saying no to her beloved Grammy. Well I start to count 5, 4, well she gets excited because she thinks we’re playing a counting game. 3 ,2, 1.9, 1.8 1.7. I’m between a rock and a hard place , both my grandbaby and my daughter are quite amused both for different reasons . My grandchild because of the game my child because she thinks I could never spank my first grandchild. Well to make along story longer I get to 1 .I swear her little fanny ever slightly. Well you have thought I hit her with big stick. She looks at me in disbelief tears welling up in her beautiful little blue eyes and starts to sob uncontrollably. She runs to her mom who is staring at me mouth agape and climbs up on her lap burys her head in her mom’s shoulder and weeps the movie goes on. 5 minutes later she slides off of her mother’s lap comes over to me climbs up onto my lap and lays her head on my shoulder I almost cried BUT I HAD TO BE STRONG FOR GRAMPYS EVERYWHERE. to this day all I have to do is in my tone that says do you really want me to count , and she gives out the long sigh the oh Grampy ,then does as she’s told. Four years later her little sister comes along their no longer living with us . Well 3.5 years go by . There over visiting and my second grand child is standing up in the chair holding on to the back . I promptly tell her to sit down that she might fall and get hurt, no Grammy she says.I look over at grand daughter number 1 a look of sibling delight on her face. I look at my daughter, her look says here we go again.I count I spank I sit her down.she stands back up crying stareing at me.I count I spank I sit her down a second time. She gets back up crying staring at me .I count I spank I sit her down a third time .now these spanks are so soft as to be laughable but the shock value is priceless. At this point my daughter say ” I can’t take this I taking her and number1 home”. I look at my daughter and calmly say if you take her home don’t bring her back ,I’m not putting up with her disobedience, my daughter goes and sits next to my wife for solace ha ha ha.so who’s going to prevail the 3.5 year old hardhead or the mean old dad / grampy. Well the fifth time was the charm,and to this day both of them only need hear the tone in grampys
    voice when he calls their name and with respect albeit sometimes begrudgingly they obey . My daughter one day exasperated asks me how do you do it how do you get them to do as their told the first time . I looked at her and started to count, she smiled. I said after you say if you do that one more time for the tenth time and haven’t followed up on the first one more time they know your a bluff a soft touch. My dad taught my siblings and me to say what you mean and mean what you say certainly a well worn cliche not to prevalent in today’s culture.so a double hooray to your two beautiful examples of fortitude and strength. Thank you good Dr. Neal. P.B.W.Y. always.

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