Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 1, 2002
Amazing grace comes in all ages
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
My nephew Matthew has always been a special grace for me and my family. Born into what we today term a "crisis pregnancy" situation, he has been our miracle, our gift from God.
For me, as a priest, his arrival into the world was particularly memorable: I got to be the Lamaze coach for his birth. And that, along with my ordination to the priesthood, have been the central moments in my life.
The seven pounds of newborn baby has grown significantly over almost two decades. Matthew now stands over me, and in addition to his physical stature, he's grown in character. He possesses a profound sense of right and wrong and he also has a compassionate heart.
With the coming of his 18th birthday, I wanted to do something special. Knowing that this fall would see him off to college, I decided that a car would be a practical gift. I started saving a long time ago and, with the help of a friend in the car business, I found just the right one. It was safe, but a little sporty.
I've never been good at keeping happy secrets. So I guess I'd dropped the occasional hint to Matthew about something special on his birthday. One day, he decided we should talk.
We went out to lunch and had an amazing conversation. "So, you got me a good gift for my birthday, Uncle Jim?" "Well," I said, "I'm pretty sure you'll like it." Wasting no time, Matthew took the plunge. "I'd guess it's a car, right?" "Well, it might be, but I'd rather not say until your birthday."
Then he hit me with something I'll never forget. "Uncle Jim, I'm really grateful for your generosity, now and always. But I'd rather not have you buy me a car." I was perplexed. After all, isn't a car the dream for a young person turning 18?
But then Matt put it in perspective. "Of course, I'd love to have a new car. But since Sept. 11, things have been very hard for Mom and Dad." Many were affected by this national calamity and among those "downsized" was my brother-in-law. "I just don't see how I could accept a car, which is really a luxury, when they have to struggle just to meet the mortgage. So I guess what I'm saying is I'd rather you share the money for the car with them."
It's been a long time since I was about to turn 18. But I suspect that consideration for the financial struggles of my parents was not at the top of my concerns. I wondered if his parents had suggested the idea to him, but they were as surprised as I was. No, Matthew had come to this on his own.
On that day, I learned that contrary to popular myths, young people today aren't always obsessed with themselves. I learned generosity of spirit isn't a value whose time has come and gone. I learned that all of us are obliged to consider the consequences of our desires.
Some months ago, the Christopher Closeup television program had the delightful opportunity to interview broadcast icon Art Linkletter. A spry and insightful 89 years old, he reflected on the lessons of his life.
Remembering his best-selling book entitled Kids Say the Darndest Things based on his TV interviews with youngsters, Linkletter said that "we have so much to learn from the honesty of children."
But what I learned from Matthew about consideration, about sensitivity, and about generosity shows me Linkletter was right. We have so much to gain by seeing that young people - like their elders - are capable of true insight. We only have to listen - and learn.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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