Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I was at the grocery store the other day and found myself irritated by unruly children. It's a pretty upscale store in South Minneapolis - lots of "Creek people". Most of the kids appeared to be adopted from another culture - or at least looked to be of foreign birth while the parent was obviously white and American. (It's an observation - not a judgment - many affluent people are adopting children from other countries, especially girls from China.) The moms seemed to me to be single - maybe not all though. What annoyed me was that the kids all had their own mini grocery cart - so they could be like mom and push it around. It was the busiest day of the weekend and the busiest time of the day. I was annoyed because they always seemed to be in my way. (In addition everyone was eating from the various sample tables. I hate that! Do we always have to be eating and carrying some drink, nearly spilling on one another? It's rude. People leave their cart in the isle to retrieve their sample and hold up the flow. Was I or was I not in a bad mood?) I could not wait to leave the store.
The next day I complained about it in the office - somewhat exaggerating my anger so I sounded like a grumpy old man - just to annoy the parents in ear shot. (Everyone hears your conversations in an office.) It was my way of vicariously yelling at the parents I encountered in the store the day before. Hearing myself I actually felt badly that I sounded so anti-kid. As usual I thought about it more and prayed about it. I was acting like a grumpy old man. What was I annoyed by? The affluent housewives or professional businesswomen mothers who have adopted or natural children? I don't really know for sure. (The affluent in our society are rather annoying though. They used to be called nouveau riche, then yuppies, then something else - yet now they are so prevalent, what do you call them?)
We are a self-centered culture and when you're stressed it's easy to focus hostility on the snob element in the society. What is interesting is that some of the children of affluent families, who are now adults, have arrived at a semblance of altruism. Many good young adults aspire to real virtue and genuine holiness. I have been privledged to work with a few. One thing I've noticed however is that they are very much accustomed to getting whatever they want.
There's a connection here. I could not help but think of one couple I know who has had everything pretty much taken care of by mom and dad. Don't get me wrong - this couple is very enterprising and hard working. They are also very devout and I would speculate rather holy. They want a child and for some reason known only to themselves cannot have one. They adopted one child and want another now. That's a good thing, right? I guess so. It seems it's okay for some people in our society to adopt kids or produce them and it's not for others, and for good reason. But if you can't have them, what's all the fuss?
I'm reminded of St. John of the Cross when he wrote on "vain rejoicing in temporal goods" in "The Ascent of Mt. Carmel". He wrote; "It is also vain to desire children, as some do in upsetting and troubling the whole world with their longing for them. For they do not know whether their children will be good and serve God or whether the expected happiness will instead be sorrow, or the rest and comfort, trial and grief, or the honor, dishonor. Because of the children they might, as many do, offend God more. Christ says of these people that they circle the earth and the sea in order to enrich their children, and they make of them children of perdition twofold more than they themselves are. [Matt. 23:15] - Ascent chp 28;4.
It's a wonderful thing to want and to bear children, and if a couple is unable to do so, it is good to adopt. I'm not condemning that. What's my point? I don't really know except some people's kids annoy me - and so do their parents. Anyway - this all started because of some spoiled adopted kids I saw in the grocery store when I was in a bad mood.