Gifts: Modeling Our Faith with Our Actions Gifts: Modeling Our Faith with Our Actions

I have long been a lover of technology and gadgets. From my first transistor radio in the sixties, to my first CD player (the first CD player ever made) in the eighties, to my first iPod around 2001, I have particularly loved those gadgets that make it easier to enjoy music.

A few years ago I made another leap forward in music gadgetry as I transitioned to a Sonos wireless music system.

The transition was different than ones I had made in the past. I think this was because of my age. My decision process was more deliberate, less impulsive. Yes, I was still an early adopter, but this time around, it took much longer (weeks rather than minutes) to research the product and to understand how it was functionally different from anything I had used in the past.

Although the system is easy to operate, once I started using Sonos, it took me a while to explore and appreciate its features. A longer, slower learning curve seems to come with age.

The system allows me to listen to music wirelessly all over the house, it can be music stored on my computer, a Pandora channel, music from my Spotify account or almost any radio station in the world that streams on the internet. It can all be controlled from my computer, from my phone or an iPad.

A year ago, when my wife and I moved into a house with our daughter and her three children, The music system was moved in and set up before much of the furniture.

A few months ago, the kids started using the system. I have mixed feelings about it. Although I am happy they are exploring music, I find it difficult to adjust to the tastes of children ages 5,6 and 8. (Their musical tastes currently run to song parodies featuring characters from the online game Minecraft )

Here's the thing. For all the time it took me to learn how to fully use and appreciate the system, it took them almost none. I have never once showed them how to use the system or any of its features. By observing me over time, they have figured out which icon brings up the controls, they have figured out the difference between Pandora and Spotify, they know how to search for songs and control the volume from room to room.  They have yet to learn what constitutes good music or what appropriate listening volume means, but they are off to a good start.

It seems to me that there are two factors at work here. One is the fact that children seem to have little trouble adapting to technology; the other is that children learn a lot by observing the behavior of the adults in their lives.

This point was driven home the other night when I was helping my oldest grandson with his homework. He had a worksheet on the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit. One portion of the worksheet contained a list of attributes that aligned with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. He was to list people in his life that exemplified those attributes.

When we got to patience, I asked him who he knew that exemplified patience. He looked at me and said "Well, certainly not you! You're about the least patient person I know!". "Ouch!"  I thought, "That's not good." "Well, Who in the family sets a good example for patience?"  "Nobody!" he replied.

After some discussion, he finally decided that his Cub Scout Den Mother was extremely patient, and added her to the list.

It seems to me that children learn about faith in much the same way they learn about technology. You can explain things, you can talk about them, but  children really learn from what you do.

I don't need to lecture my grandchildren on the joys of music because they observe the value I place on it. They were then able to use my behavior as a model to begin selecting and playing music for themselves.

What I do about my faith is more important than what I have to say about it. Seemingly little things like saying grace before meals, attending mass, and having religious images around the house are important because they demonstrate the value our family places on faith.  Of course that’s not nearly enough.

As my conversation with my grandson demonstrated, my attitudes and behavior speak volumes about how I live my faith. No amount of lecturing on patience and kindness will resonate with him if it's coming from a grouchy old man. It took an eight year old to teach me that I need to be more open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and cultivate their fruits.

I can only hope that when they grow up, they will remember me more for what they learned about faith than for what they learned about technology!

Copyright 2013 Kirk Whitney