Michelle Martin

Little eyes

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Little eyes are watching. It’s a truism, something adults say to remind one another to watch what they do in front of the children. Little ears are listening. Watch what you say in front of the kids.

There’s a reason for that.

Kids — from toddlers to teenagers — often function like mirrors, or digital playback devices. Did you let a four-letter word slip in front of your 4-yearold? Expect to hear that word come back at you from a cherubic little face, probably at the most inopportune time.

Walk out of the store with something you forgot to pay for? Go get back in line, unless you want your preteen to think it’s no big deal to take something that doesn’t belong to you.

Go on an angry rant about (insert ethnic group here) because someone from that group took the last parking place on the block? Listen to your teenagers disparage another group because someone slighted them.

But it goes the other way too. Standing in line with a cartful of groceries and someone gets in line behind you with a carton of milk? Let them go first. See someone trying to merge into traffic? Slow down and leave a gap for them.

See a kid fall on their bike? Stop and help pick it up, even if the kid is with a parent, who is busy checking knees and drying tears, just like a couple of 20-something guys did the other day for Teresa, who starts first grade next month.

We live in a world — my family lives in a city — where Teresa can say to me on the way to the park, “If somebody comes to the park and starts shooting, you’ll help me get out, right?”

And all I can say is, “I don’t think that will happen, but if it does, I’ll do my best to protect you.”

Because it has happened, often enough that she’s aware of it.

Little eyes and little ears are everywhere.

Be the person you want your kids, your nieces and nephews, the neighbor kids, the kids kicking your airplane seat to be, because they are learning how to be from all of us. Sure, parents are the primary teachers of their children, but they learn so much from the world around them as well.

It doesn’t cost much to show them how to be considerate, how to be kind, how to value other people’s time and trouble the same way you value your own. It costs nothing to speak with compassion, to listen and try to understand where someone else is coming from.

Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Mt 18:6). Remember that we can lead the little ones astray by our example as well as our words.