I’ve been thinking about influences recently, I guess it’s a train of thought that comes up again and again when children come on the scene. As I look at sonface and wonder what he’ll turn into or become like, I find myself reflecting more and more on what has influenced me and whether those things were a conscious choice by my parents or just a natural overflow of who they were. As I belong to the overly self conscious, over analytical generation I want to get it right, I want to consciously put things in sonface’s path so he can’t help but fall over them and be infected by them.
I’m just not sure it works like that. I think we’re called to be who we are as parents and let him stumble across our values himself. Rather than placing them severely in his path for him to trip over I guess what I want is for our values and ideals to shape his steps and be the backdrop of his life in a unselfconscious way. Obviously there are some things we need to be more blatant about than others. But I think it’s less about us planning in ‘things that will influence him’ and more about living our lives. Which is a fairly terrifying thought as that might mean I actually need to live well as opposed to just having lots of nice theories for him to live by.
Anyway, these thoughts were kick started by the death of Pete Seeger. My parents had an old battered cassette tape of his Carnegie Hall concert in 1963 which I loved listening to around about the age of 11. He brought to me a world I barely knew existed in white middle class Guildford. A world of segregation, of the fight for civil rights and the sound of a man speaking up for those who had no voice. He was singing songs right on the cusp of all the change in the civil rights movement and the joy in his songs is palpable as he delights in the tide beginning, oh so slowly, to turn. You can hear the taste of freedom in the air as he sings. His songs opened up my mind to think it obvious that people were made to be equal, that to take away rights from those different from you is a blindingly stupid thing to do. And he was also lots of fun, encouraging singing along from the crowd and sorting out the out of time clappers. It’s worth a listen if you have a spotify account near you.
I am glad my parents loved him and so I had the opportunity to love him to and have my world enlarged. I am grateful they had literature from organisations such as Tear Fund lying around the house so I could realise there was a wider world out there, I am glad they sponsored a child in… (I can’t remember where) I am grateful they got involved in Traid Craft helping to raise awareness of fairtrade issues. I am grateful that they were concerned about more than their world in Guildford. I am grateful they loved ‘Cry Freedom’ and that I watched it and learnt more about the horrendous world of apartheid, so I appreciated the crazy wonder of watching Nelson Mandela walk free on the news.
I want my son to grow up with influences such as these but I think a change needs to take place, I wonder if I am concerned about this world? Do I keep up to date with news now there is no longer a 9 or 10 o’clock news slot in my life? Do I filter the news with what catches my eye from the BBC news website? How can I show him concern for this world? Do I have concern that he will pick up on? I’m pretty sure that it’s not as simple as me telling him to care about this world, I have to show him and I think it has to be natural. So again I ask myself where is my concern beyond my small life here in Brighton? I know I cannot change the world, I know that too much information is overwhelming but I am called to pray, to give, to care. Lord help me do that.
What do you reckon? What were your influences on you as you grew up? What do you owe to your parents take on the world? Have you ever listened to Pete Seeger? Give it a go… Here’s some awesome tracks from the Carnegie Hall concert: