A mourning dove built a nest in front of the press box at Great American Ball Park a few summers ago. We watched daily as the bird – dubbed Marlon after one of the players – raised two babies in front of us.
Marlon and the babies took flight during a long Reds’ road trip. When we returned to the press box for the next home game, we saw the empty nest and felt sad.
Something about an empty nest touches us. A place that was so full of life and sound is now vacant and quiet.
One thing about nests: They haven’t completely fulfilled their purpose until they’re empty.
Another thing about nests: They’re never actually empty.
Our modern culture has redefined nesting to very limited terms. When children grow and go out into the world, we call the parents empty-nesters. We think of family as a small thing – only those who share a house.
Family is so much more. A nest is so much bigger.
People once understood our interconnectedness. It takes a village to raise children and build communities where life and healing and love are the shared values.
In the deepest sense, your children are my children, just as mine are yours. We experience this in so many ways that it ought to be obvious.
Many people parent us
For example, I have a friend whose son loves basketball and neglected his studies in grade school, despite his parent’s admonitions. When the son went to high school and made the freshman basketball team, his grades went up appreciably.
The father was delighted and asked the son what had inspired him to study harder. The son said his coach told them that while basketball was fun, studies mattered more. It sunk in.
You can imagine the father’s reaction! He had mixed feelings. On one hand, he was delighted that the message finally got through. On the other, he wondered why the son had ignored it for so long until some other adult conveyed it.
All of us block out our parents to some degree as we’re growing up – it’s part of the process. That’s why it’s important for all of us to share the parenting role. Each of us has many adults who come into our lives and teach us what we need to know.
Each of us has the ability – and the responsibility — to influence and nurture the children of the world.
That was the core of Mister Rogers’ message. He recognized every child as his own, and he responded to each one with the same compassion that he accorded his two sons.
This Presbyterian minister spent his life reminding each of us that we’re a beautiful and beloved child of God — just as we are – and we deserve to be loved that way by everyone, especially when we’re in a difficult time.
He touched children’s lives through television and left a deep and lasting impact. The stories are touching — I highly recommend the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
Every child is mine
We saw the same spirit at work in the cave rescue in Thailand. Brave divers did extraordinarily dangerous things to save 12 trapped boys and their coach – one sacrificed his life for them.
The rescuers put themselves at risk for children they’d never met. They responded out of a heart that regarded these children as their own.
Sadly, we’ve seen a very different response in many people to the terrified children separated from parents at the border. So many people have said: These aren’t my children, their parents are to blame, they deserve the horrible things happening to them.
Our hearts are lifeless – and our faith meaningless – if we can’t identify with such a child or such a parent and feel compassion. We’re lost if we don’t recognize that each child in the world is ours, too, regardless of their circumstances.
We need to be remind ourselves that our family extends way beyond our front door. Every child is ours. The nest is big and brimming with life. There are many mouths to feed and lessons for all of us to teach.