Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 1, 2012

EVERYDAY GRACES: A CHILD’S BOOK OF GOOD MANNERS

 

They slouch.  They slump. Some even slither, it seems at times.  They stare and startle in their sullen singularity these youngsters — children apart, apart from the rest of us, knots and tangles of the unruly, the unmannered, and somehow threatening in their appearance and manner, or lack of manner at all.  They appear a new kind of thing in our midst.  But, they are our children, our grandchildren.  Though we may love them, yet we do not know them, or if we do we might wish we had not.  We avert our eyes in their presence, embarrassed to be seen with them, and ashamed of their behavior.

They frighten and worry.  Why do they behave and dress as if they had no idea of what it means either to behave or to dress? Why do they punctuate their speech in public with obscenities and profanity once thought the special reserve of criminals and thugs?  Why is an attitude of thuggery their most “pleasant” public or private face?  What will ever become of them?

Where are their manners, after all?  There is nothing of grace in them.

Perhaps it is because we have become ourselves people of an age of unmannerliness, impolite behavior, and lack of grace in our dealings with each other.  Perhaps it is because we have forgotten, ourselves, what a good thing it is to behave, both in public and in private, with courtesy and respect toward each other.  Perhaps children do learn more from what they see every day than from what they may be taught in a classroom.

There is more than a kernel of truth in the observations above.  We have to admit it.  We have forgotten the everyday graces.  Or, if they are remembered, they are remembered only to be made fun of; reserved for caricature and parody.  We have done more than that.  We have cast them aside as if they were worthless things, worn out garments.  No wonder, then, that the most impressionable, the children, so quick to learn, have followed on where we have led.

Yet we do miss them, for ourselves and others.

Mrs. Karen Santorum, the wife of former Senator Rick Santorum, and mother of his children, has done us all a service in her lovely book, “Everyday Graces.”  It is a collection of stories for parents and teachers which she assembled because she couldn’t find one source of stories and poems, rather than a text book of instructions, to help her and her husband teach their children good manners, the everyday graces of the title.  Consider it a weapon if you wish, a weapon against coarseness and brutish behavior.  If it is, it is the most gentle and charming weapon.

Weapon or not, “Everyday graces” is a beautiful thing, a volume filled not only with “everyday grace, but everyday wisdom.  Mrs. Santorum comments on each of the entries she includes.  How simple and profound at once is her observation on the first, a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson about gratitude for our parents’ care of us: “Practicing good manners shows that you are a strong person, able to put others before yourself.”  Who thinks, today, along those lines?

Who can afford not to think that way?

The Christian Book Corner is pleased to offer a very limited number of First Edition Autographed copies of “Everyday Graces”, a book which is becoming more and more popular in libraries, homes, schools and churches across the country as the second edition goes to press.   Handsomely bound and beautifully illustrated, this book is destined to become a classic.  It is surely a beautiful gift for a young family, a treasure of wisdom and delight for children eager to learn how to live good lives and be happy, not merely seem happy.

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