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Catholic Activity: The Tempo of Life



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The habits of creativity that children develop as they grow older will reflect upon every aspect of their lives, for all that they do will be made beautiful and pleasing to God.


The Tempo of Life

Working in many art forms, using talent easily and spontaneously, finding that their creations are respected and useful, slowly children cross the bridge that connects art and work and bring their sense of creating to bear on the more subtle arts of daily life. They discover that setting a table — or hanging the wash, folding the sheets, planting the garden — can be a design. They discover the rhythm for kneading a dough, milking a goat, hammering a nail, rocking the baby. There is a pace for raking, another for sweeping. There is a pattern for scrubbing the floor, another for ironing a dress. Kneeling to comfort a child is a reverence, as is genuflecting. Praying out loud together is a harmony, just as whispering together while the baby sleeps. Walking with pails of water for the goats is measured and careful; walking back from Holy Communion has another measure.

These things children learn instinctively, but with more alacrity and with willingness to discover the beauty and satisfaction in ordinary acts if they have had many experiences exploring with their own creativeness. No one is really "all thumbs." Everyone has special gifts that set him apart from his fellows and make him a special person. But so many times they are never discovered. It is not work that is ugly, nor working that is unendurable, but the wrong work with the wrong person attempting it that can make it seem ugly and unendurable. Creative artists we must have, and God provides them abundantly in every generation, but the others are no less creative for the practicality of their arts. And the gifts given to these are no less special: they must be sought just as carefully.

Respect for the Maker and Worker

We have committed many sins against man's creativeness with our modern snobbery about work. We have accepted a norm for work which is based on reward, approval, and selfish gain rather than motive, integrity, creative service. We have become confused; we esteem work that is respected rather than work that is respectable. Horror is the reaction of most parents to whom it is suggested that domestic service is appropriate work and training for a young girl looking forward to marriage. It does not occur to such parents that the creative arts she would practice in so-called menial employment are the same arts she will practice (with greater grace for her training) when she is a wife and mother. How does sending her to work in a factory, to file papers and stack cards in an office, train her in the art of homemaking? This is how far we have strayed from the recognition and understanding of creativeness. We respect people for the creativeness of their hobbies, not their lives, and admire the successful fellows who work creatively in wood or paint or whatever on their weekends, more than carpenters, plumbers, farmers, who work creatively all week along.

For Christian parents who want to help their children find their whole usefulness, how to use their whole lives — not just certain departments — creatively in the service of God, these points need thinking out. People are not haphazardly created with a dash of this and that added for interest by a Creator Who dabbles in variations on the same old theme. Each one was made to serve Him in a special way. The discovery of how begins when they are very little and learn to make visible and tangible their own ideas, formed by the knowledge of God, His love for them, and the truths Christ teaches.

Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961