by Father Mark Goldasich
“Oh, God, make me into a television set.”
Some students were asked to write an essay about what they’d like God to do for them. While grading these essays at home, the teacher read one that startled her.
Her husband saw her crying and asked, “What happened?”
She answered, “Read this essay from one of my students.”
It read: “Oh, God, make me into a television set. I want to take its place and live like the TV in my house. Have my own special place and my family around me. To be taken seriously when I talk. I want to be the center of attention and be heard without interruptions or questions.
“I want to receive the same special care the TV set gets. Have the company of my dad when he gets home from work, even when he’s tired. And I want my mom to want me when she is sad and upset, instead of ignoring me. And I want my brothers to fight to be with me.
“I want to feel that my family leaves everything aside, every now and then, just to spend some time with me. And last but not least, make sure that I can make them all happy and entertain them. Lord, I don’t ask you for much. I just want to live like a TV.”
After reading the essay, the husband said, “Gee, poor kid. What horrible parents!”
The wife looked up and said, “That essay is our son’s!” (Adapted from Meir Liraz’s “Top 100 Motivational Stories.”)
That’s pretty sobering, isn’t it?
Once again, it’s October, celebrated as Respect Life Month. Rightfully, we look during this time at the larger life issues like abortion, poverty, health care, human trafficking, racism, immigration, the death penalty and euthanasia.
Sometimes, though, in looking at the bigger picture, we neglect where respect is learned and lived out: in our daily interactions with others in the ordinary events of our lives.
In today’s world, maybe the boy in the opening story would instead pray for God to make him into a cellphone. How many times have we seen people bowed down over — worshiping? — their cellphones, while ignoring the very real human beings present around them? Why do we tend to value things more than people?
On social media these days, you’ll encounter a large amount of vitriol and cynicism in the posts and comments. Most disturbing are the comments that Catholics make about fellow Catholics. It’s enough to make me cry.
If we don’t respect the people we encounter daily — offline and on — we can’t magically make the jump to truly care about those larger life issues.
There’s no place like home to cultivate respect, and these words of St. Basil the Great from the fourth century might be a practical place to start: “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked, but does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
If assigned an essay like the little boy above, what would you write? Here’s what mine would say: “God, make me into a person from whom others can expect respect.”