Today is Mother's Day here in Canada. When I was a kid, it was a day for cheesy cards, lovingly made pasta necklaces and fingerprint art and moms being given a carnation at church. It seemed so umcomplicated.
As an adult, though, I have come to appreciate that Mother's Day is fraught with sadness for so many people. In our own circle, I have heard painful, painful stories of dear friends who were told they couldn't have children (and these friends live in a small town and as people whose jobs are very rewarding, being a bride and having babies are the only real ways to be special), friends who have undergone traumas related to complex fertility treatments, friends whose mothers were not nurturing and loving for a variety of reasons and whose kids have come away with painful scars (like the boy in my class this year whose abuse at the hands of his addicted mother have led to him living only with his loving but overwhelmed dad), friends whose mothers suffer from mental illness or Alzheimers, friends who have never found a life partner and whose dreams of a family have passed them by as they age and friends who have suffered pregnancy loss or even the loss of a child (this is especially fresh as we have a family at the school at which I teach who lost their 10 year old son to cancer last Sunday). I know that especially for moms who don't work outside the home, whose worlds don't involve a whole lot of compliments and recognition, it's nice to have a day in which they get to be the star. For so many others, though, it's a day of pain and powerful reminders of dreams that won't come true and feelings of being left out of life's joys. It really makes me think that we need to find another way to celebrate to recognize those moms but also to recognize the pain, too.
It makes me think of offering some kind of "nurturing day", a day in which we celebrate all of those who nurture other people. I heard a story last year that has really stayed with me and today, it fits what I am thinking about. A friend works in a community in which she is dealing with a lot of youth who are suffering and excluded. She told me about a gay couple who had always been dreaming of adopting children and being parents. For a variety of reasons, this never came to pass. For a while, they were really sad and gave up on their dreams. Then, at some point, they realised that there was a group of orphans who desperately needed care and they could meet that need. They decided that they would "adopt" older kids, teens who had been disowned by their parents for their sexuality. They stepped into the breech and gave a place to "go home" for kids whose homes had been denied them. While I realised that for some, this isn't what they think of when they think "Mother's Day" and I doubt that there is a card made for this scenario but to me, THESE are nurturers who deserve to be celebrated. There are the teachers who buy shoes for the kids whose families don't have the means to give them, there are the old single ladies and widows at church who have selflessly taught the little kids Sunday school class for years and are a loving force for so many little ones growing up in the church, there are the "aunts" and "uncles" who may never have their own kids (whether family by blood or by love) who put themselves out to make a safer world for other people's kids. There are those who are "parenting" their elderly parents and who are dealing with burdens as heavy or heavier than most parents bear. All of these people deserve the cheesy card and the carnation and they are no lesser because they didn't necessarily do the labour and delivery.
That's my desire this year. I want to look for opportunities to be that nurturer - to love those who need to feel some unconditional love and to say thank you to everyone who is nurturing, often in the shadows. You are doing God's work and living out the gospel message.