Raising children with love and discipline is one of the world's most meaningful activities. Some would argue that it's the most important thing we can do to secure a better future. How grateful we can be, then, for all of the non-traditional parents who embrace children who aren't their own.
The grandmothers featured in a recent Monitor article are an example of that unselfishness (Jan. 2). Most of them are raising grandchildren left behind by family members who passed on or who are unable to care for them. These women attend a support group held at the Friends for Life office in Alexandra Township outside Johannesburg, South Africa. During their meetings they share their struggles, triumphs, and tips. The women featured in the article find it easier to keep going through life's difficulties when they have their group leader and friends to remind them of how strong they are. If the conversation begins to get bogged down in self-pity, the leader encourages, " 'Please, please, let's not forget how strong we are.' "
They also find encouragement in their faith, singing songs of praise, "I will never forget my God," and "Your child is my child." We, too, can sing our songs of praise to God, remembering our divine Parent's provision and generosity.
The desire to make a difference in a young person's life can motivate an individual to take on parenting responsibilities even when there's no personal obligation to do so. Whether we're deeply involved in helping a child or simply on the periphery, our prayers and assistance make a difference.
The basis for our prayers can be the fact that God is our Father – yours, mine, the adopted child's. The Bible has many references to God's fatherhood. The Lord's Prayer begins, "Our Father which art in heaven." When Jesus used this word for God, he called attention not only to God's role as Creator, but also as our source of comfort and supply. Putting "Our" before "Father" indicates that God's love is like arms opening wide and including everyone in an embrace. No one is left out.
On other occasions, Jesus demonstrated the many aspects of God's mothering love. He was patient, dedicated, and encouraging.
Anyone looking into the crowds who followed Jesus would have seen a wide variety of individuals. No doubt there were orphans and children who had been taken in by relatives because of family circumstances. Jesus spoke to them of our one divine Parent. He showed that each of us, no matter what our social status or background, includes the full complement of spiritual qualities that is required to nurture and raise children.
These qualities include patience, intelligence, strength, spiritual intuition, love, gentleness, wisdom, truthfulness, among others. Each of us has the ability to express those qualities not just to our friends and co-workers, but also to the children we meet during our daily routine.
As you pray to support nontraditional parents, or to be one yourself, you can remember what a nontraditional individual Jesus was. He stepped outside the ordinary patterns of the life expected of a man in his time and fulfilled his God-given mission. Although no one can replace him, he expected his followers to follow his example – to go out and live God's love.
Making an effort to provide a child with stability and resources is one way to be the kind of follower that Jesus wanted. When we pray, God shows us how we can help in our family or in the community.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote, "And does not this heavenly Parent know and supply the differing needs of the individual mind even as the Scriptures declare He will?" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1901," p. 7). God offers comfort and inspiration tailored to the needs of each one of us.
Like the grandmothers in South Africa, we can step up with grace and courage to help the world's children.