Birthday party

The birthday party for our youngest grandson was today. Unbelievably we are celebrating two years already! It was my job to pick out the presents.

So, I got a shovel made in Italy, a pail made in Austria and an educational wooden put-it-together, take-it-apart, in 20 ways toy made in Thailand of kiln dry, chemical free rubber wood, put together with e-zero glue, and stained with water-based, non-toxic colours. The packaging was colored and lettered with soy ink & water based ink.

The manufacturing process passed toy safety standards, quality management, environmental management, occupational health & safety management, social accountability management and employed solar cells & biomass.

And the toy itself has approval from the Children’s museum, the Reforestation program, the toys for children with special needs program, the children and community club and the Sarnsaeny-Arun – culture and environment foundation.

And, if that is not enough, it is a winner of an iParenting Media award.

I just hope he likes it even though it is designed to learn about objects containing screws and how to twist and tighten nuts and bolks, enhances fine motor skills, bilateral control and hand-eye coordination, helps develop logical thinking, planning and imagination and helps children understand the element of force as applied to screws, nuts and bolts.

Wow! I think it probably took a three year post-graduate seminary education for me to acquire so many different competencies, albeit of a different order.

I hope it does all these things. I just thought it looked interesting and was something I might like to play with when he gets bored when we’re hanging out.

While I am pleased that the toy manifests all these great characteristics and carries so much promise the list is probably not critical to me although, undoubtedly it should be. But I know it carries significant weight with my daughters and sons-in-law. So I pay attention.

When we were touring the country with the Emerging Spirit project, sometimes people did not want to hear about adaptive change or the need for profound changes in the orientation of the church. Tips and tricks were the preference. Even then people would raise their eyebrows when we would comment that the standard for washrooms in congregational buildings needs to be at least that of the washrooms at the mall. This is the minimum expectation for young parents these days. Children, much anticipated and researched, are not easily subjected to substandard facilities or programs.

How you love my child is how you love me – very reminiscent of God really.

Walter Brueggeman, the noted biblical scholar and commentator, talks about the need for the Christian community to learn to have conversations “at the wall” separating the religious community from communities of different perspectives. These conversations require not only the ability to speak our own language and understand our own practices but also to pay attention to the culture and language of those outside the walls of our temples.
Although his reflections grew out of commentary on an ancient Hebrew text, the point applies to us in a very profound way.

If we are serious about connecting with parents and children we have to understand their lives – the stresses, joys, opportunities and values.

The gifts cost a little more than I might pay at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store. I notice that has become something of a trend now in the family at Christmas and birthdays. My wife and I look at each other and solemnly intone, “This is an exception! We’re only going to splurge on these kids and grandkids this one time.” Although now that we’ve said the litany for at least three Christmases running, I’m beginning to wonder!

The reality is though that I’m willing to do it – even if it cuts into my ration of O’Henry’s and Smarties (and that’s how serious it is!) – because I’m actually concerned more with the wellbeing and happiness of those grandchildren and children than I am with my own comforts and habits.

And maybe that’s what it takes.

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