Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Through the Eyes of a Child

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 02, 2010

I’ve been reflecting on how all of us, no matter how small our troubles, tend to be preoccupied with our troubles. We may know that there are many people who are starving or terminally ill, but it doesn’t keep us from grumping about our colds or stressing over the $15 too much we spent on something that was cheaper at the next store.

And it isn’t even necessarily a matter of complaining. It’s primarily a simple preoccupation with our own concerns. The fact that we remember, from time to time, that our concerns aren’t really very serious does not prevent them from being ours. For better or worse (and probably mostly for better), they are the only personal concerns we have, and they are the concerns we’re responsible for addressing.

Spouses and other close family members talk past each other, to a certain degree, about their concerns all the time. “I’ve got to call Sally,” my teacher-wife explains, “to get that matter of the editorship of the school paper settled before Fall.” And I reply, “Um. I’ve got two more documents to get to the bank today before our mortgage application will be complete.” It’s not that we’re not interested in each other’s concerns, but even in a marriage each spouse has his or her own plate full of largely different things. The items in the plate are mentioned and, indeed, catalogued vocally to one another at odd times during the day.

It’s not that I need to know whether my wife has to call Sally; nor does she need to know the exact documentary stage of the mortgage application. The editorship question is part of her job; I said I’d take care of the documents. For the other to be told when either becomes a significant problem is generally soon enough. But it is an act of love to listen to these expressions of another’s preoccupations, one of many little acts of love which become habitual in a successful marriage, or among good friends. We listen not so much because we need to know, but because in some sense we’ve agreed that the other person’s little concerns should be ours as well.

And of course we do worry about our little concerns just a tad more than we should. The slight stress of keeping the plate from overflowing, or the list in order, gets communicated, sometimes matter-of-factly with only a furrowed brow, sometimes in exasperation, and very occasionally—if it’s been a really bad day—at the near edge of hysteria. Later, perhaps, we’ll take a step back and chuckle over how upset we’ve gotten—that is, over how little we’ve learned to practice the presence of God. But again, be they ever so humble, there’s nothing quite like our troubles.

In the midst of such reflections, as Mass was starting this morning, one of my daughters slipped into the pew with her two small boys, the older of whom, Nicholas, is three-and-a-half. As Nicholas slid over to sit next to me, he looked up to get my attention with an air of one about to make a serious announcement: “Grampa,” he said gravely, “I couldn’t bring my dinosaur book today.”

Oh, yes, Nicholas, I know how it is. I really do.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Jul. 03, 2010 12:28 PM ET USA

    A very pleasant reminder of the joy brought to our lives by children. Our Lord has a special place for them and for those who heed His command to be like them. A less enjoyable tale involves the time my wife was struggling with my son on the way to Sunday Mass. With a baby in the other arm, and herding a couple of stragglers along, she was dragging him into the crowded vestibule as he screamed, "I don't want to go to Mass; I don't want to see Jesus." O, the humility.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jul. 03, 2010 11:14 AM ET USA

    Thank you for this gentle reminder for thinking about others. God bless you and your family.