Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,
The Christophers’ Board of Directors
In a classic “Christopher Closeup” interview, theologian Dr. Doris Donnelly said that forgiveness is “the linchpin that holds a family together.” Father John Catoir later wrote a News Note entitled “Ways to Say I Love You: Charity in the Home,” in which he relates this bit of wisdom to a real-life story exemplifying how forgiveness not only brings healing but creates a chain reaction of love.
Father Catoir recounts the story of Jon West of Georgia, who learned about forgiveness from his father. When he was 10 years old, Jon was playing with a tree branch near where his father was working on a ladder. The youngster accidentally caused his father to fall and break his arm. Jon’s father’s response was to say, “Let’s forget it. I’m going to be fine, and we’ll cut more limbs together, okay?”
This response made such a profound impression upon Jon that it caused him to treat his mother with the same forgiving attitude some time later when she spilled milk on him at dinner. Jon quickly responded “That’s okay, Mama,” and he later wrote an essay in which he called forgiveness “a sign of kindness and love.”
Father Catoir explains that forgiveness is one of the best ways to say, “I love you,” and he adds that listening and courtesy are great ways to express our love for others. He tells of one family in which generations were changed by having their hopes and dreams heard in one grandmother’s kitchen in Ohio. Father Catoir writes, “Courtesy. Consideration. Kindness. These help create feelings of warmth, caring and acceptance in the home. All are facets of love.” He quotes Letitia Baldridge, who was social secretary to two U.S. Ambassadors and said that good manners are good sense “with a little extra dose of love and consideration.”
The love we show one another has a ripple effect that can profoundly impact many lives. Father Catoir tells of one couple who said that they “put one another first,” explaining, “Because of this we have developed a unity of spirit apparent not only to us, but to our children.”
Father Catoir notes that showing patience with children is one of the best ways to teach them lasting lessons, quoting Fred Rogers, who once said, “The only real discipline comes from love, not fear.” To exemplify this axiom, Father Catoir recounts the story of a woman who was marveling at a friend’s seemingly infinite patience with her three-year-old child, who kept interrupting her housework to call her outside to see a butterfly, a flower, or an ant. The woman asked the mother, “Don’t you ever want to scream?” The mother responded, “Well, I brought her into the world. The least I can do is let her show it to me.”
What a different way to look at the interruptions a child brings into the home, to see them as a gift that might enable us to view the world in a new light. And this is how we must see each individual we cross paths with and each situation that seems to interrupt our lives: as an opportunity to discover new ways to love through patience, listening, courtesy, and forgiveness.
We all have people in our lives to whom we want to say, “I love you,” and the best way to make that statement is through our actions. And when we act on love within our homes, we plant seeds of hope that can transform the world.
For free copies of the Christopher News Note PRACTICE KINDNESS TO CHANGE LIVES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org