Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blessing Baby

We recently had our new son blessed at church by my husband. Following the baby blessings of our two older children, we celebrated with extended family and friends. This time, we had a smaller event. We invited only immediate family because we were hoping to celebrate in our new family room and we weren't perfectly confident we could finish it in time. I didn't invite a large crowd for fear that we would not get the room done and have no place to seat our guests. However, I hope I can share some of the spirit of the occasion here.

He blessed our baby with faith in God, that he would know that he is a son of God and that he would nurture and cherish his relationship with God.

He blessed him with meekness, that he would be a kind and gentle man who would love the people he would come in contact with.

Then he blessed him with desires to serve in the church, become a missionary and marry in the temple.

Finally, he blessed him that he would look up to and follow the example of his mother.

That last one made me a bit nervous; it could be a blessing or a curse, depending on how well I turn out.  Of course, I always stay out of trouble, so I can rest assured that if he follows in my footsteps I won't have to bail him out of jail or check him into rehab.  But I would also like my children to be more inspired, more thoughtful and less petty than me--just altogether better.  What parent doesn't want that?

In my church we don't baptize or christen babies, the blessing is just an optional but beautiful tradition welcoming and celebrating the new child. It is an opportunity to extend some spiritual gifts in addition to the darling new outfits and toys.

I don't believe God withholds gifts from children whose parents don't choose to participate in a formal blessing ceremony like this one.  All children have spiritual gifts; the great joy of the baby blessing is just hearing those gifts described out loud. Perhaps the most important aspect of the blessing is the gentle reminder it provides to the baby's loved ones, especially the parents, that this new child is a unique and special person, a person with unlimited potential that we are honored and privileged to care for and love.

This baby comes to us already as Someone. He is not clay to be molded by me.  In some ways, he is already destined to be somewhat different from me through his own unique spirit and biology.  Yet, as one of his parents, I will be one of the most influential people in his life.  I wield great power to teach and love and educate and motivate him, as well as possibly damage him.  I can only do my best, but I pray that someday I can look back and be confident that, in spite of the mistakes I am sure to make, overall my son was blessed by my example.  That is how I feel about my own loving parents.

In my faith, we always talk about parenthood as a stewardship. Our children are not given to us; they are entrusted to us.  The author of this poem was not of my faith, but I love the way he describes this principle.

On Children  by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thank you, Senator Bennett

I would like to acknowledge and thank Senator Bob Bennett for his years of service to our country.  I am not related to him in any way, but I did work as an intern for him ten years ago, when I was single and fresh out of college. At the time, I was undecided about my political persuasion.  I have since come to the certain conclusion that I prefer the values of the Democratic party, but that does not prevent me from respecting Senator Bennett for his intelligence, diligence and patriotism.

While I was working in his office, I had to hold my tongue when my coworkers sang praises to the likes of Charlton Heston.  However, the Senator was also involved in many efforts that can be admired from either side of the aisle.  At that time, cyber terrorism  was a new and emerging issue, and his colleagues relied on Senator Bennett to develop legislation to address this new kind of crime. 

He is extremely intelligent.  Occasionally, he would gather his staff and we would pepper him with questions.  Without prior preparation, he would answer with details from history and economic theory. 

Not too long ago, his fellow Utah Republicans bashed the Senator for agreeing with President Obama that Sarah Palin’s “death panels” comment was an irresponsible lie.  He should be more loyal to his party, they argued.  His voting record is loyal to his party (too loyal, from my perspective as a Democrat) but he believes that the people should get accurate information, even about bills he does not support.

His party voted him out of office last weekend.  Many Utah Republicans claimed that he is too liberal.  I am a registered Democrat and I assure you that he is in no way liberal enough for my taste.  However, the “tea party” heretics who are now dominating Utah politics accuse people of socialism whenever they exercise common civility, are willing to compromise to get things done, or make choices based on the needs of the country rather than ideology. 

These dominant Republicans want someone more like them: less effective, less smart, but louder, meaner, and even more right-wing (as if Bennett wasn’t right-wing enough!)  Since most Utahns vote straight Republican ticket in the general election, I am sorry to say that the heretics will probably get their way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Strange Public Health Agency Rivalry Thing

Why is it that so many local health department directors can’t seem to give a speech without throwing in a few insults directed at their counterparts at the state health department? 

Could they be jealous?  After all, their agencies are smaller than the state agency. 

No, jealousy doesn’t seem likely; they may be smaller, but it is common knowledge that local health departments are more powerful. During my first year in state employment, I once unintentionally offended a receptionist at a local health department. The subsequent backlash demonstrated how the power wielded by a receptionist at a local health department dwarfs that of a mere state employee, regardless of rank. 

I think it is more plausible that they feel unappreciated for all the important work they do.  After all, as several of them pointed out after taking a few jabs at the state health department during the public health conference I attended today, local health departments work on the front lines of public health. They are the closest public health workers to their constituents, provide most face-to-face services and know their local communities best.

As one teeny, tiny, little piece of the agency they so obviously resent, I would like to do my part to heal this rift by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to local health departments across the state.  I agree with your directors that you do very important work. 

I wouldn’t even mind working for a local health department someday myself, as long as I would not be required to make speeches belittling my colleagues employed by the state.

That being said, would it be okay for me to point out that there are also some important public health efforts that are most effectively completed at the state level, and we are fortunate to have equally competent people employed at the state health department to complete those tasks?  At risk of sounding like a socialist, aren’t there even other public health roles best taken on by the federal government?