Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Fifty-one years ago, when I was in Kindergarten at Harris Elementary School, our teachers had each of the students plants flower seeds in a small spot during the spring so that we could present budding flowers to our moms on Mother’s Day.
When my mom picked me up for school on that particular Friday, just two days before Mother’s day, I carefully concealed my plant under my shirt so that she wouldn’t have any idea that I had a Mother’s Day gift for her.
It was also my hope that she wouldn’t ask me any questions, so I wouldn’t have to tell her any lies. However, as soon as I sat down in the car, she asked, “So, Kenny, what’s under your shirt?”
Thinking that I was being sly and secretive, I accidentally blurted out, “Mom, it’s none of your business!”
Most children who talk that way to their mothers are not alive to tell the story today, so believe me, I cannot tell you how blessed I am that my mother didn’t put this motto into real life: “Kenny, I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!”
I really believe that Mother’s Day may have saved me, because mothers who take the lives of their children two days before Mother’s Day are not looked on favorably by society. At least that’s what I hear.
I know for sure that my mother never swatted me that day, nor did she have my dad take the belt to me, nor did she ground me for life; however, I do remember my mother giving me sound advice: “Kenny, you better watch your mouth if you ever want to talk again” or “Kenny, you better watch your tongue if you don’t want me to take a bar of soap to it.”
In all actuality, I don’t remember the council my mother gave to me; I just remember that there was a counseling session and as a result of that session, my life was spared and a bar of soup never touched my mouth. Since Irish Spring is my favorite, I would have requested that brand had my mother insisted my mouth be cleansed.
So from that day on, what did I learn? I learned to exchange these words, “It’s none of your business” for the words, “Mom, it’s a secret, and I can’t wait to surprise you on Mother’s Day!” From that day on, I learned that it’s not so much what you say, it’s how you say it that makes a difference.
All of our words may not be golden or seasoned with salt, but thanks to our mothers and fathers, we as their children have learned over time that if we can’t say anything nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all.
May we always be willing to thank our mothers and fathers for teaching us the golden rule and for helping us perfect our “golden tongue.” Several years ago, I ran across a reflection called, “From Parent to Child” by an unknown author who reminds all of us of the sound advice that our parents gave us…
“I gave you life, but I cannot live it for you. I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn. I can give you directions, but I cannot be there to lead you. I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it. I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe. I can teach you right from wrong, but I cannot always decide for you. I can buy you beautiful clothes, but I cannot make you beautiful inside. I can offer you advice, but I cannot force it upon you. I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish. I can teach you respect, but I cannot force you to show honor. I can advise you about friends, but I cannot choose them for you. I can advise you about sex, but I cannot keep you pure. I can tell you about the facts of life, but I can’t build your reputation. I can warn you about drugs, but I can’t prevent you from using them. I can tell you about lofty goals, but I cannot achieve them for you. I can teach you about kindness, but I can’t force you to be gracious. I can warn you about sins, but I cannot make you moral. I can love you as a child, but I can’t place you in God’s family. I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Jesus your Lord.”
The last one is my own: I can tell you to watch your tongue, but I cannot control it for you.
“Mom, I have a secret, and I can’t wait to surprise you on Mother’s Day!
Rev. Vialpando is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.