Sunday, June 21, 2015

Grasshoppers, the Internet, and Pope Francis

It might be an exaggeration to say that grasshoppers changed our family’s life.  However, at least one of our 10 kids believes that by making room for grasshoppers in his life rather than sitting in front of a TV or video screen, his childhood was much richer.  Pope Francis would agree.

My son Luke (just turned 30) recently shared with me an article he wrote, “Raised By Grasshoppers.”  After recounting how he and his brother Tyler launched grasshoppers into space via helium balloons and Styrofoam cups, he explained other ways that grasshoppers enriched his life. There was the discovery that the insects were considered edible in some regions.  As an 11-year-old, Luke’s loved reading survival adventures so trying grasshoppers as a delicacy was inevitable.
During Luke’s entomologist stage, which overlapped our 2 years living in the country, he found different species and categorized them complete with Latin phylums mounted on boards along with other insects.  
While living in the country, it was the grasshoppers in my husband Mark’s garden that persuaded him to let Luke get ducks.  They eat grasshoppers.  And when the smallest duckling, Quacks, fell into a very deep and narrow hole in the garage, it was a grasshopper that saved him.  After praying for the seemingly impossible—a way to get Quacks out of the hole--the idea popped into my head to tie a grasshopper to fishing line and lower it into the hole.  Unbelievably, it worked.  Quacks snapped the grasshopper and was pulled up. He let go of it once he was up and in the hands of his rescuer, Luke.  The ecstatic joy and amazement at such a rescue touched our whole family.
His childhood was much bigger than the grasshopper, but that insect is symbolic of an adventurous childhood made possible by keeping electronic entertainment to a minimum. “I see a childhood lived outside of TV and video games, that the natural world never ceased to excite. And in those stoic little compound eyes, [of the grasshopper] I see lots of love. I see the love of a mother taking her four boys to a baseball field and imparting to them her childhood joy of jarring grasshoppers…I may no longer store a supply of captive grasshoppers under my bed, but I've managed to hold onto that joy of discovery which fills my world with creative, imaginative possibility.” 
The adult Luke, still enjoys nature
Because electronics was such a small part of our kids childhood, their creativity and antics inspired my children’s books Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious.  The humor and inspiration came from real lives, lived in the shadow of our Catholic faith.  Television and video games do not invite children to embrace the world around them. Neither do they create memories. By leaving room in our children’s lives for nature and imagination their lives and those around them will be changed and enriched.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis understands the value of grasshoppers and nature.  His recently released 184-page encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home  not only challenges us to be good stewards of creation but encourages us to embrace it.  Its title is from the opening words of the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi — “Laudato si, mi Signore” — Praise be to you, my Lord.  In it, the Pope described the world as  “a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
Earlier this month on June 6, Pope Francis also asked parents to limit the use of electronics in their homes.  During his flight back from a one-day apostolic visit to Sarajevo, the Pope told reporters that slavery to the computer harms one’s soul. He said that in many families, rather than enjoying each other’s company during meal times, everyone is on their mobile phones. According to him, attachment to technology “takes us away from ordinary life, family life, social life, and even from sports, from the arts.”
According to Rome Reports, Pope Francis had met with young people at the John Paul II Diocesan Youth Center in Sarajevo. After watching some musical performances, he answered questions from the audience.  One young person asked the Pope’s opinion of the Internet. 
"You must learn how to choose what you watch. If I see that a program is not good for me, hurts my values, makes me vulgar or has vulgarity, I have to change the channel,” he said.  The Pope added that the Internet can also be good or bad.
"If you young people become attached the computer, and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look at dirty content on the computer, you lose your dignity. Watch TV and use the computer, but for the good things, the big things, the things that make us grow.”
For more inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious. 
         Follow Patti at Twitter and like her Facebook pages at Dear God Books,  Big Hearted Families and  Catholic News & Inspiration on Facebook.  Sign up at the right column to receive articles in your inbox.

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