Self-centred as a child, I don’t know when or why I started to think there might be something else more important, but it started innocently enough.
I mean, in my time, everyone sent their kids to Sunday school, which is the closest I came to anything religious; yet, all I can remember is how some of us made folded airplanes of the church bulletins to throw out the balcony windows.
My parents weren’t particularly religious, although I think my father took me to an Easter service once. Other than that, my only other church attendance was at weddings and funerals.
So, what gives? If my church experience had zero influence on me, then what did?
When I was about twelve, I can remember being sad about burying my pet goldfish, Gwendolyn, and I said a little prayer for her sake. I don’t know if it took, although I thought it was ok. It’s the only prayer I remember saying, but my folks were breaking up about that time, so maybe I got distracted.
Looking back through my teenage years, I do recall being influenced by some of my relatives in a positive and vicariously religious manner.
From my maternal grandmother, I learned how a simple woman of faith could command the love of everyone who met her. I could tell that she was special because of how she treated me – with kindness, patience and with such gratitude for any little thing I did for her. She had an easy way about her: like the time I stressed over the fact that we didn’t have any cake mix in the house for the birthday cake she promised me. Smiling she said, “Don’t worry Freddie, we were making cakes long before Betty Crocker.”
Another person who kept me smiling was my paternal grandfather. From him I learned that giving of one’s time to help others made you happy. And, although he didn’t act “religious” during his lifetime, he had written on his shed door, “A person is closest to God in a garden, than anywhere else on Earth.”
And, from Aunt Mamie, I learned honesty. She was the matriarch of my Mom’s family and if anyone – especially adults – were to tell her lies, she had a memory that could expose them in no time.
I guess all these role models started me thinking.
So, when our own kids came along, all were baptised and enrolled into Sunday School to be confirmed. Fortunately, we went to a small village church and all their friends attended, as well as most of their parents. After that, I figured that they could decide for themselves.
I think, intuitively, I’ve always known right from wrong. So even though I couldn’t prove it, I couldn’t doubt it either – personally needing and seeing my faith at work.
It’s not much of a spiritual resume, yet years later – like John Newton – here I am, a miracle:“Amazing grace …
‘twas blind, but now I see”.
www.fredparry.ca (June 2013)