I won’t make light of the heavy social justice issues we’re facing in our nation right now. These are important issues to consider and discuss, even here in Douglas County where many of them seem far removed from our daily life. But I refuse to let them weigh me down like a rock in a river, the pressure building with every meter of water rising over my head. I need to be able to navigate this river with the belief that something good will come of it.

I’ve realized I have a job to do during this time. A job I was made for. If I stick my head in the ground and wait for the problem to go away, I’ve completely missed the point.

I am not a child who will soon enough be a young adult dealing with—well, a royal mess, in my opinion.

I am a parent. I will be middle-aged when today’s children come of age in a world that will try to force agendas, political ideologies, and some delightfully twisted morality down their throats (although, let’s face it, it’s already happening to them now).

My job is clear. I need to be preparing these young hearts and minds for the time when they will be challenged even more heavily than I am being challenged in the current climate.

That means working to make sense of the times by measuring my actions toward others — with active love as the thermometer. But it also means exposing my children to these issues in ways that are safe and digestible to their tender hearts so that they too may learn to walk through life with love as the gauge for their success.

I know I have a responsibility to address some of the current issues at my children’s level for an important reason: they are not often exposed to people of different races, values or cultures here in Douglas County. We have some diversity here, but not enough to normalize the experience and naturally create and apply tools to interact with the different and the new.

The primary job of my children in this life is to love their neighbor and it can be hard to love if you don’t make any effort to understand. There’s no way I can make them really understand what it’s like to be another color, from another culture or have a set of values other than what they know, but there are many small ways I can teach them empathy, grace and humility.

These tools are intrinsic to loving one’s neighbor, so rather than be swept away on the current of this year’s major news stories, I can use the underlying issues to teach my children more intentionally what active love looks like.

I know I’ve only learned a little so far, but here are a few things I am doing to filter it down to the kids:

  • I talk to them and show them in my own interactions how every person has value no matter what they look like, how they communicate or where they come from.
  • When I praise them, I try to avoid praising the things they can’t change, like their looks, and focus on how they take care of others or do their best.
  • I talk about what freedom means and how not everyone is treated the same way.
  • I talk to them about differences between boys and girls and share stories of times when someone has been treated differently because of who they are.
  • Our family library is growing to include more colors of people and illustrations of cultures different from our own.

These are not easy things, and they require some finesse with kids because they are limited in the topics they can mentally and emotionally digest.

I don’t want to burden them with all the troubles of the world while I can still give them a childhood, but I want them to see that problems exist and they have power, in every situation they’re in, to either do more damage or to bring about peace and unity between people — and there is no middle ground. We can no longer afford complacency.

I hope this is my legacy. I hope that my children, and by extension their communities through every stage of life, generate more light through active love than the generations before them.

Adrienne Tratz is a full-time Catholic homeschooling mom to four daughters.

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