Works of Mercy in Children’s Book
Toni Rossi, Director of Communications,The Christophers
Considering the way he was raised and the career path he’s followed, Mark Shriver seemed destined to write a children’s book. After all, his mother founded Special Olympics for young people with disabilities; in college, Mark tutored underprivileged kids to give them a better chance at success in life; and for 18 years he’s worked to bring food and education to American youngsters in poverty through Save the Children. All those experiences, combined with the faith and values he was taught by his parents, gave Mark an awareness that some of this country’s greatest people are the unheralded helpers in our families and communities. And so, Mark has now written a Seek-and-Find book for children called “10 Hidden Heroes,” and we discussed it recently on “Christopher Closeup.”
Mark explained, “I think in America, we spend so much time consumed by power, wealth, fame, and celebrity. And I’ve always felt that character and goodness make a big difference. That’s what these heroes are doing…These are the folks that make our communities whole: Moms and Dads doing their good work, day in and day out, the person at the grocery store, the kid in the neighborhood who is cleaning the snow off of cars for senior citizens…Special Olympics athletes, Best Buddies participants, kids that are in a wheelchair or have a disability, participating in raising money for the homeless, or helping those that are hungry. Those role models need to be celebrated as well.”
Both Mark’s parents – Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver – attended Mass together every day, so his own Catholic faith was impacted by the way they practiced theirs. That’s why the book implicitly celebrates the Corporal Works of Mercy, which include feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, and visiting those in prison.
Regarding his own work helping those in poverty, Mark notes that he never had a “Saul on the Road to Damascus” moment that inspired him. Instead, he said, “My parents very consciously [educated] us from the get-go. Doing outreach, delivering turkeys around Thanksgiving, bringing us out even on vacations to see what was going on across the country that we were visiting. So we were exposed to not just sitting on a beach, but actually understanding what was going on in that community. [There’s also] the work that I did in Upward Bound – an education program for kids that are struggling, but have great skills – when I was in college at Holy Cross…They were really smart kids, and with some additional assistance, could realize whatever their dream was, whether it was to be a doctor, or a stockbroker, a lawyer, a parent. They don’t need a handout, they need a hand up. With that support, they could pursue their own dreams, and that really got me fired up on this issue.”
Ultimately, Mark hopes that children and their parents read “10 Hidden Heroes” and see in it the acts of selfless love that point us toward God. Mark concluded, “It’s about acts of mercy and acts of connection between human beings. From a religious perspective, that’s what I think Jesus asked us to do: to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your might – and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what everything’s built on. All the teachings of the prophets are built on that…and we’re trying to celebrate the people who do that who don’t get a lot of recognition.”
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