What surrender really means

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

I have gotten it all wrong.

When I spoke about “surrendering to God” in my prayers, I thought it was an act of giving up, the raising of the white flag. For the longest time, I thought it meant just turning my back, not caring anymore and just letting God do the works.

Surrendering to God, I saw as merely associated with problems, an act of unburdening that could relieve you of the stress, the pain, the anxiety – sort of a magical power hoping that the act of surrender could take all these away. At church, I often witness the loudest “Amen” when there is mention of surrendering our financial woes to God, as if it could be the end to our financial struggles. I had often “surrendered” my personal struggles and my inconsistent prayer life, to God, too.

Yet, it did not work for me. I knew that I got it all wrong because this kind of surrender has led me nowhere. The way my life is tracking, was pointing to apathy, a lack of progress. I felt I was going back, true to what I thought surrender was – giving up.

Until I discovered Fr. Mike Schmitz’s YouTube clip, “What surrender really looks like”. This shattered all my preconceptions.

For one, not only do we surrender problems and our pains. It often is the case though that we remember God in our prayers, in our most trying times. But how about surrendering our successes? Surrendering our successes means allowing God to use us for the good of others. That means granting God the “access to our lives”. Surrender means asking God, “What do you want me to do with my successes, my treasures?”.

Yes, surrendering requires action.

As for our pain, yes, we do surrender them but don’t expect that this could magically go away. Surrendering our pain means, allowing God to access our heart and letting the Mind of God, rule us. What does God want me to do in this situation?

Even in moments when we feel it is a dead end, we surrender in His wisdom. God knows when it is the end. He also knows every fresh start. We just need to entrust to Him EVERYTHING.

What is the meaning of life?

Dave Canovas

This is a question that could be borne out of disappointment, grief, depression or even mere boredom. Whichever it is, I do not welcome it. It nags and gets me into deep thought. Deep thinking, I have come to understand, tends to be more of a liability for me than an asset.

No matter how I tried, this question does pop up from time to time and I really have to grapple with it but now I have been learning and been very quick to reframe it in a way that would make me avoid the pit of futile deep thinking. WHAT MAKES LIFE, LIFE? – is a question that really sounds better in my head in that it provokes “doing” and “action” rather than just merely meaningless pondering.

So what makes life, life?

Make “ordinary” things “extra-ordinary” again.

Very often, these “ordinary” things are being made redundant by our life’s routines. Routine for me is such a killer. We have always had these “things” in our lives – talked with, played with, used, eaten, lived in or enjoyed. These have become such a part of our routine already that we have overlooked their importance. Getting your dream job may have heaped our “hallelujahs” then. I wonder if we are as grateful for it, now. We only realise how much our loved ones mean to us, once we lose them. In most days, they tend to be relegated to just being the “ordinary”. I remember crying when we bought our first house but now I am finding myself wishing it was bigger. These thoughts could all be counter-productive so the solution is to make these things that seemed “ordinary” now, “extra-ordinary” again. Bite an apple like it is the sweetest and juiciest apple you have ever tasted. Drive to work with zest like it is your first dream job. Hug your wife and children like you are never going to see them again. Live your life as if it were your last. Well, you know, it could really be your last. I am really fortunate to teach pre-school age children everyday. They seem to never lose the joy. They always remind me to see the spiritual sense in even the most mundane of things.

Always think and strive to learn and avoid meaningless pondering. Why your neighbours are better off than you are, why you couldn’t be in two places at the same time, why you think people are mean to you or to each other, why people unnecessarily honk their horns during traffic – seem to be pointless thoughts because it gets you nowhere other than to spiral down. Thinking and striving to learn, on the other hand, is one built on purpose and could be actualised into something of value. Recently, I came across quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson which I have been reading over and over again. These are short but really meaningful and have great potentials to make me a better person. I have been constantly listening to Fr. Andrew Ricci’s podcast and have been enriched by his wisdom. Striving to learn new things is a start of greater things.

Act on your knowledge. Implement your plans. I spent my whole life wondering about the ‘what if’s” and the “what could’ve been’s”. I resolve to not waste another minute of my life focusing my energies on these, instead, to start to do, to act and venture into things I am most afraid of and in the process, add value to my life. What is the value of your plan if it remains a plan forever? At my kindergarten, we envision creating a community garden that could benefit our families. Sounds like a big vision but would not come into fruition if we do not attempt to start to work towards it. Whenever I gain new knowledge that deepens my Catholic faith for example, I share them with others hoping that it could impact on their lives as it continue to impact on mine. The home is a good starting point of sharing these. I make myself visible and available for other people and offering a life of service, as much as I can.

Always find time to connect with self, others and God through prayer. Prayer is a respite for the tired, an assurance for the weak, a celebration for the happy, a feast for the soul of the peaceful. Prayer can be all of these. We pray in all our seasons not only when we are in need. Prayer also transcends distance and time and allows us to be connected with the people we love. I have loved ones from the Philippines, USA, Canada, Middle East and Israel but I always feel that prayer still binds us together whenever I remember them in my prayers. Prayer binds me to God. It is always a wonderful place to quell fears, to heal, to feel love, to unburden myself and to remain faithfully connected with God’s promises.

What makes life, life, I learned, are overcoming yourself and getting past your past and your nagging meaningless thoughts. What makes life, life; is to start to put things together beginning with the little things and adding them all up to create a bigger picture of continuous learning, connecting and devoting to a life of prayer. That is the life worth living for with actions all done in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Values in action

Luke 15:13 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one or love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

I value my “family” but there were points in my life when my actions led me away from them.

I had some irrational obsessions years ago. Obsessing with fixing broken things at home or keeping the house insanely and perfectly tidy, was one of them. This came in a guise of “valuing family”.

Who doesn’t like a clean and tidy house for your family?I think we all do but for the longest time for me, it bordered on irrationality when even the tiniest things would keep my head in and would make me fly off the handle. I abhorred it when things at home would get broken or misplaced. I hated looking for lost things. That would be enough for me to have a fit. My feelings after exploding would be much, much worse.

Was it worse because of growing anger? Or was it worse because of guilt stemming from hurting the feelings of the people I love. Little things at home seemed really “big” enough to pull me and my family apart. I knew I needed help,

Never stray from your values. Work towards aligning your actions with your values. I came to realise this when I went through counselling for depression. People who suffer the feeling of inadequacy, worthlessness and depression, may have really admirable values in life like faith in God, family, friendship or diligence but our actions or inaction, like sinfulness, disloyalty, betrayal or sloth, could further lead us deeper down the pit.

What I found that I have always valued are faith in God and my love for family. I have always aimed to live by these in the past but was unsuccessful several times. I guess by not praying, I had not realized my faith. I guess by having a short temper over household matters, I had not been a good father or husband, either. Such was a mismatch of values and actions that tormented my soul.

My inaction, I knew, would only make matters worse. On the contrary, I learned later on that the more I spent meaningful time with my family and the more I pray and learn about God’s word; the closer I get to realise what really matters to me.

Now, I know enough that I value my faith and that, not praying or not learning about the bible, will only make me feel inadequate and more depressed. I still do struggle now but I know enough that I value and love my wife and my children, that petty household things must not feel big enough to overcome that love.

The Holy Spirit and lessons on spirituality for young children

Dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To start to read professional research on childhood, is always a big mission for me. You see, a teacher gets rusty and a little misplaced through time and one surefire way to fan the embers and to get back the inspiration, is to read. As always, getting started is the most difficult step but I have learned in the past that once you get through the first step, it gets easier, intriguing and thought-provoking along the way.

I have few pages of research on spirituality among young children, a topic I long wanted to unravel, sitting on my desk for months. In the last Auckland lockdown, I managed to finally read it. Let me share with you highlights of what I learned from these journals.

Most research contend that spirituality in the early childhood settings, are not fully understood and articulated because it is often equated with religion. Research found that childhood is a stage in life where spiritual experiences are very much alive and when children revere that which cannot be seen. What are some of these spiritual experiences? That sense of wonder and constant wonderings about themselves, others, nature; are considered spiritual experiences. Wonderings truly abound in a young child’s life. A child at daycare once asked me if a tree had a heart like human beings. I invited the child to hug a tree and listen for any heartbeat to seek the “truth”.

Spirituality awakens a child’s focus and creativity and one way teachers could foster spirituality is to invite calm and silence in their lives. Research found that developing spirituality in young children could help address alienation and depression, violence and alcohol and drug abuse, later on in their lives.

The way spirituality was painted here is truly beautiful. But that which drives these spiritual experiences, I believe, is rooted in something more than a realisation, a feeling, an emotion.

What truly drives spirituality is the Holy Spirit and absolutely, my faith has EVERYTHING to do with it. Our connectedness with people, places, things and ourselves; has more meaning, knowing that the Holy Spirit is behind it; such is our eyes that allow us to see the truth.

When my two daughters were toddlers, my wife and I used to take them to the beach just to search for shells. Then, it was not the number of shells they found but how they got to discover each shell. I would let them run their fingers around it and let them find words to describe it. Always, I would point out that God made them. How did God make them? I don’t need to know. For something so perfect, it must be such a loving act. Nature is so perfect and it must be a work of a perfect God.

Nature invites focus and silence. The world bustles with a lot of noise. PS4 noises in the living room. Car honking in the streets. Chatters in the train. Noises in our head. How do we turn these noises off? A time of prayer spent in nature is one way to invite the Spirit. My younger daughter, Soleil came one day telling me that she meditated in the school garden. I was very pleased that she found her way to turn off noises around her and bring in peace by praying in silence.

The Holy Spirit lives in us and manifests Himself in different ways. When our children, show acts of kindness, praise their good-heartedness and let them know that the Holy Spirit guided their work and it must be in their heart. My elder daughter Skylar loves to share her food with her friends in school. I knew that she really has a good heart. When she was about five years old, she got mad at us for shooing the ducklings taking interest in our picnic food. She must be feeling the ducklings’ hunger. Children’s act of kindness are spiritual experiences that must not go unnoticed.

When we struggle, the Holy Spirit can also hold us together. Anger and sadness are healthy emotions that children have to go through. When prolonged, deep and constant though, these emotions could become unwanted spirits later in our lives. These could turn into the feeling of worthlessness, alienation and depression.

Early on in life, we can help children recognise big unsettling emotions. We label these emotions. We talk them through it. We encourage them to believe that they will never ever be alone and that act of inviting silence predisposes them to prayer. In silent prayer, the Holy Spirit could dwell in them. It could dwell In all of us.

As Jesus promised us in John 14:16-17 – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit is the kind of help we all desperately need today.

While we, teachers and parents, scramble to “teach” our children to succeed academically and socially, we should also “teach” them spirituality driven by the Holy Spirit. The early years is the best time to do this. It is the time when children show so much reverence to the unseen when they spend endless moments of wonderings. Teach them that the Holy Spirit can be invited to dwell in us when we pray in our silence. Once it touches us, all we have to do is surrender and it becomes our armour against the unwanted and unwelcome spirits of this world.

Our life and joy-giving connectedness with the world and ourselves is driven by the Holy Spirit. When that connectedness breaks causing us despair, it is also the Holy Spirit that restores, rebuilds and heals it. Let us take it. It is a free gift.

Self-denial and self-love: a balancing act

Dave Canovas

Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

There are people who are “givers”. They are tireless, always looking out for others’ interests and wellbeing first before their very own. They hardly have time for themselves. They feel guilt when presented with moments when they can’t give any more. Most well-meaning parents are presented with this dilemma especially when balancing work and home life.

There are also people who are “takers”. These people find it hard to forego personal pleasure and interests. They are the impatient tailgaters and honkers during traffic. They “take” every opportunity to be ahead of others. They are constantly comparing themselves with others. They think world resources are dwindling thus feeling the need to accumulate material things while trampling upon others.

While the “giver” is seemingly altruistic, the “taker” lacks consideration for others and whose attitude borders on selfishness.

The giver needs to take a break and nurture self-love while the taker needs to learn self-denial and start making sacrifices for others. How? It is a fine balancing act requiring first, a stroll on the garden called the bible and second, a moment of searching and self-awareness.

We take a stroll in the garden called the bible. In Luke 9:23; we are reminded that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus Himself is the ultimate example of this pure, self-less, self-denying love for us. What about self-love? In Mark 12:31, it says, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. This verse never left the aspect of “love for oneself” out in the cold. To a certain degree, we are called to still love ourselves while loving others.

Self-awareness is another key to balancing self-denial and self-love. I have always admired the Maori concepts of wellbeing. It treats a person’s wellbeing as a whole, not as fragmented parts. One’s physical body (Tinana) is strongly related to one’s spiritual (Wairua) and emotional and mental (Hinengaro) wellbeing. These concepts constantly remind me to be more self-aware and for example, to rest when I am exhausted. I have found, time and again, that exerting your body to a helpless breaking point could lead to an emotional boiling point. In Mark 6:31, we are called to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

In Proverbs 4:23, we are reminded, to keep our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. For me, it means that we should never be afraid to say “no” when our cup is not full because we can only give when we are not empty. Therefore, we must not feel guilty of ever choosing to refill the cup, to pause, to sip from our own cup of coffee, to be alone, to take a breath, to have a break. We must not feel bad when sometimes, we decide not to give. It is because we just want to make sure that when we decide to give, we are really able to and are doing it freely, willingly and happily.

Self-love, I suppose, must precede self-denial. When you are less forgiving of others, it could be because you are less forgiving of yourself. When you unreasonably expect others to be perfect, it could be because, you yourself make no room for mistakes. When you find it hard to love others, it could be because you find it hard to love yourself. How we are towards others, is a reflection of how we are towards ourselves.

How COVID-19 has brought new light to what “church” means to me

Dave Canovas

Photo by Robert Stokoe on Pexels.com

Let’s go to church. Let’s go inside our hearts and open it up to the Holy Trinity. Let’s go to church, that is inside us, and make it a living example of helping others. Let our lips be the bearer of loving and kind words. No hatred, no pride, no arrogance, just kind and loving words. Let our eyes look at others not with condescension but with encouragement and compassion. Let our bodies, our church, speak of actions trumpeting Christ’s love.

The mention of “Let’s go to church” paints a picture of a family on a Sunday morning, going through the whole routine of getting dressed, driving a car, strenuously looking for a parking space and miraculously finding one. Then off the car and stands the church, beautiful and towering.

For the longest time that church, a towering structure, has been a symbol of refuge, hope and prayer for me. COVID 19, however, has some far-reaching effect on how I look at church now. Church, the structure, is still a beacon of light for me but somehow, the pandemic has brought another form of light in my life. It is not a floodlight and it is neither a blinding sunlight. The church I now know is a place, a candlelit place so subtle, warm and sometimes flickering but still holds up mightily, bringing light into this darkness.

Pre-pandemic, I was content with the idea of going to church, the building. Then the most unexpected and most unwelcome visitor came. That visitor brought lockdowns, deaths, anxiety, grief, job loss, fear. It has isolated people literally, in quarantine. I never thought, I would be reading stories to children via the screen of a gadget. Who would have thought that “going” to work in pyjamas would be a thing? It has brought tremendous anxiety to me and it still does, up to this moment.

During the pandemic, was born our altar at home, a more permanent one. Pre-pandemic, our altar seemed to have moved a lot, in the corner there, next to the TV here, in the middle or on the side – it was everywhere! It was during this very trying times that I have realised the importance of prayer and that the home must predispose me, my wife and my children, to it. Calming music in the background, candles, images – all completed the altar. We pray more now than ever.

Our altar

Our family was no stranger to tragedy during the pandemic year. When our family needed to grieve and seek comfort from each other, it was extremely difficult. Our sadness was made even worse by restrictions of border control and physical distancing.

When weak, when desperate, when sad, when feeling alone, I say, let’s go to church. It is that candlelit church, I spoke about earlier. It is the candlelit church inside me, inside my family, inside you, inside all of us. In 1 Corinthians 3:9, it is said:

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Let’s go to church. Let’s go inside our hearts and open it up to the Holy Trinity. Let’s go to church, that is inside us, and make it a living example of helping others. Let our lips be the bearer of loving and kind words. No hatred, no pride, no arrogance, just kind and loving words. Let our eyes look at others not with condescension but with encouragement and compassion. Let our bodies, our church, speak of actions trumpeting Christ’s love.

Let’s go to church. Let’s go to each other and find that light in each other. Remember, we are stronger and brighter together.

I say, Amen, to going to church together and let no border control and physical distancing come between us, the community of believers.

What does God say about our self-image?

Dave Canovas

It is very natural for human beings to need to belong or to be recognised but with billions of people in the world, who would actually want see you? You have BTS to contend with, brother.

The image of a child, a principle based on Reggio Emilia philosophy of teaching, is a concept that I live by when I am at kindergarten. In a nutshell, if your image of children, is that they are competent, strong or full of potential, then the way you teach them, will be based on what your image of them is. For example, if your image of children is that they are able, then you would let them change their clothes themselves when they get wet from water play, because as a teacher, you believe they could do it. For me, it does not matter if they have worn their shirt inside out. At least they did it themselves (Proud of you mate!). No offence to Filipino mums, but I have seen countless examples of them “rescuing” children in the times of need. Spoon-feeding, changing their children’s clothes, preparing their bags for school – all done by a parent, mostly, by mums. If you are a forty-something like me, you must have experienced the dabs of Johnson’s baby powder on your backs after play. Do Filipino mums still put Johnson’s baby powder on their children’s sweaty backs nowadays?

When children for a long time, are seen as able and powerful and allowed to act as such, then their self-image or the way they see themselves, becomes that – powerful and able. This begs the question – as adults, what is our self-image?

I have only been with Facebook, for literally, less than two weeks and man, the thought of people who might have seen my posts, the ones who clicked their like buttons or left a heart emoji, I must say, is quite intriguing. Well, I would eventually try to snap out of it as I have set the bar very low this time around that to be “successful” with my blog, I need to connect to at least ONE soul.

In this age, the number of “likes” we get, how we look, how much we have or don’t have, could sadly, cloud how we view ourselves.

It is very natural for human beings to need to belong or to be recognised but with billions of people in the world, who would actually want to see you? You have BTS to contend with, brother. I am highlighting what I believe in, that no matter how hard we try, there is someone out there, who will be more recognised, more seen, more popular, more handsome, more beautiful, richer and better at what we do. No matter how hard we try to garner the “likes” we aim for, we could still end up feeling unsatisfied, lonely and desperate. It is going to be an endless battle, that sadly, we could not win.

There is one practice that helps me improve my self-image and it is making me win life. On the wall, next to our altar is a wooden cross with words etched on it. It says: LOVED. It seems to me that thinking I am loved, I start feeling it. It brings me to my own personal memories in the past when God has been very faithful to me, never abandoning me. It brings me to the present when blessings are abound. My self-image that I am loved, just allows to be also hopeful and not to be fearful of the future. From Psalm 139:13-4, it says:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Indeed, we are made to perfection. God loves us so much that He made us perfect in His eyes. We sin and God sees us the same way as when He first created us.

If our self-image is that we are loved, then, we tend to love others by being giving and being more forgiving. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). So the next moment you start feeling down, alone and unworthy then halt that thought! Because you are LOVED and that should remain our self-image for as long as we live.

Fear and its snowball effect

Dave Canovas

Don’t we all all have that kind of fear? Before we could even begin something, our thoughts start to take us miles and miles forward. What if it was a mistake? What if I failed? Am I good enough to do it? What if this relationship could not be repaired?

My FIRST thought when I wake up in the morning has always been very critical in how my day will be like. If it were a nightmare that woke me up, I would try to counter it with a prayer and very deep breaths because I don’t want my day to be that – a nightmare!

At kindy, a child’s first attempt on a monkey bar could be daunting. “I CAN’T do it”, they would often say. A believer that the FIRST step is always a GREAT step, I usually encourage a child just to try that FIRST steel bar and WE could do the rest, in the next minute or the next day. I have highlighted “we” because, it is important for children to know that they are supported every step of the way, that I, an adult they trust, would catch them when they fall, well quite literally. Usually, that strategy works because, in that sense, they do not have to worry yet about the second, third or fourth steel bar which to a child, could be overwhelming. Add to it the thought, of falling into a “black hole”. Quite scary, isn’t it?. The following is an illustration I have conceptualised with Filipino illustrator, JJ Duran, just to depict the idea of children conquering their fears.

Don’t we all all have that kind of fear? Before we could even begin something, our thoughts start to take us miles and miles forward. What if it was a mistake? What if I failed? Am I good enough to do it? What if this relationship could not be repaired? A stream of thoughts come rushing in. All these and we give up even before we could start a business venture, have a shot at promotion at work, have that opportunity to talk at a church event or an opportunity to change our sinful ways.

When this happens, we basically give up our shot at LIFE full of God’s blessings. We give up our sacred chance to use our gifts to heal others, to establish our own company, to sing solo or in a choir, to speak, to write, to repair what is broken (i.e. relationship or a chair) or to love. Yes, some people are quite afraid to love, in a romantic sense, or otherwise. That is our fear snowballing into negative, I-can’t-do-it, thoughts. Don’t worry because we can always find our way out of FEAR.

The key is for us to take that FIRST step. This is why I shared earlier how important that FIRST thought of the day for me is. I always try to make my first thought of the day to be a PRAYER of GRATITUDE. That is the power of the mind. If thoughts of tasks that I need to see done, comes streaming into my sleepy head, I reject it. Oops..I say to myself that I am not ready for that overwhelming to-do list, yet. Right now, right here on our bed, is me thanking God that I could still feel my legs and my arms and that I am still awake and very much alive.

2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that we can do it “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. Having taken that first step without fear of the future, without any self-doubt, always, we are taken to the second one, the third one and eventually, somewhere else, very far, with our mighty God on our side.

Just how fear could snowball into disaster, our first thoughts of gratitude, faith, hope or love, could shatter lies that FEAR puts into our heads.

Martha, Mary and the caterpillar room

Dave Canovas

When we are like Martha, we often tend to feel that time is running out. We often feel that life becomes an emergency situation. In that sense, we tend to miss out what really matters in a particular moment.

Humour does have a place in the kindergarten where I work. When things get very busy, and I mean, really busy, we certainly know how to roll with it. Imagine a room full of thirty children or so, with varying needs to explore, need to be heard or to be looked after physically (i.e. toileting) or the need to sit next to a teacher for an emotional coaching. I think I have heard “He hit me first!” stories a million times now. Sometimes, I admit, it feels like I am in the “caterpillar room”, I would often say jokingly, to one of my co-teachers. This is just to lighten up our moods. If you have seen Toy Story 3, then certainly, you would know what I mean. If not, just imagine children, turning the room upside down.

You might ask what strategies we use as teachers when everything seems to be out of control and when we seem not to know what to prioritise. At any given moment, there could be a child needing help with pooping or a child asking for help because his feelings were hurt. Apparently, the latter’s friend is not “inviting him to his party anymore”. Ouch! The problem is, I am not even sure if there even, was a party!

There is not one right strategy that could work across different scenarios, I must tell you. Even teachers disagree most of the time and we are just at peace with the thought that we can all agree to disagree.

What I am about to tell you, though, is a strategy that has worked for me most of the time – it always does the trick for me 99.99% of the time.

“Breathe, calm down, sit”. This is a strategy that I encourage, not the children to do, but myself to do first. Of course, it is a different story, when children’s safety is at risk. You have to be alert and quick. Definitely, sitting down while being aware that a child is about to fall from certain height, is never going to work in this scenario.

What this strategy of breathing, calming and sitting down, does is that it grounds you as a teacher. It allows you to observe more, to listen more and to be aware, more. It allows children to see you more, as that figure they could go to, that figure who looks calm and composed and as that figure who says nothing, but is aware of what is happening. Whenever I am in that “caterpillar room” sitting down, not looking bored though, but still looking interested with my lips arching upwards smiling; it always seem to be an invitation for children. It is me saying with my sitting, open posture; “Come sit with me”. Oftentimes, that moment could turn out to be a spontaneous storytelling session. I did not even have to yell on top of my lungs, “STOP YOU ALL. LET’S READ A STORY!” It could also even turn out to be just happy conversations about what happened the previous weekend. Imagine me on a couch with three or four children just exchanging conversations. Such is an important part of a child’s learning – for them to know when to take a break from their very restless lives.

What could work for me at work, I apply it to my personal life. That could also be the other way around. When things get really uncontrollably busy in my personal life, a lot of times, silence is key for me. This allows me to be more mindful. I notice, I become more vulnerable to discontent, to confusion, physical tiredness and sometimes, anger when I face busyness with an unrelaxed body, loud mouth and busy mind.

You might be familiar with the Gospel of Luke about Martha and Mary where Martha felt so inundated by the preparations for Jesus and his disciples’ visit. When we are like Martha, we often tend to feel that time is running out. We often feel that life becomes an emergency situation. In that sense, we tend to miss out what really matters in a particular moment. Most of the time, what matters in a particular moment is right before our eyes; a son whose hand you need to hold, your mum needing a hug, or just being there on a couch holding your wife’s hand.

We only realise the beauty of what we have by taking moments of breathing, of calming down, of silence. Silence is not boredom. It is such a grounding experience which brings clarity to our very, very busy life. Often, silence brings us down to prayer.

How can I teach Christian values in a nonsectarian organisation?

My first reaction was disbelief. Then it turned into amazement. That was when I first saw a 4-year old child holding a hammer, a real child-size hammer, as she carefully drove the nail down into the wood. I thought, “Wait a minute! You could get hurt.” Of course, I hid my panic in front of the other teacher. Later, I was proven wrong because the nail was hammered down into the wood, I must say, quite neatly. The learning? Never underestimate a child.

What followed were years of my love affair with the New Zealand early childhood curriculum where one focus is the learning of dispositions, for example, the child’s ability to take risks, to resolve conflict peacefully, to help themselves, to persist and not to give up easily, to ask for help when needed, among many others. All these learned, while they play.

I have been asked time and again, “Is that all they would do in the New Zealand early childhood setting? To play?”. I always reply with the most open mind because I know they ask, bringing their own cultural beliefs with them. Don’t get me wrong, but other “skills set” like writing, counting, drawing – all get learned in the play process. I might go in further detail how, in my succeeding articles.

Lately, I have been yearning to include Christian values in my teaching. Where I work now, is a nonsectarian organisation but we embrace ALL people, regardless of cultural or religious backgrounds with so much respect. A child, is never to be taken in isolation from his/her background. There goes my initial challenge – how do I teach Christian values to young children? Years back, I had an experience with another teacher who firmly opposed to the use of Amene in our Karakia (prayer) before eating because it is a Christian way of doing. I am very fortunate that where I work now, there is so much respect for who I am as a Catholic just as we have respect to each others’ beliefs and religion.

Having celebrated recently Christmas party with our kindergarten’s whanau (family) and tamariki (children), I have realised that our ways at kindergarten is very Christian, all this time. The tight hugs from parents while saying “Thank you for what you are doing to my child”; the conversation exchanges during the party showed immense interest in who I was and where I come from beyond kindy (kindergarten) and the massive attendance of people in the party as if saying, “We want to be part of this community.” – are all visible marks of being a Christian; being one with others, showing gratefulness and caring and loving others. Looking further back, the way we encourage children to use kind words and hands with each other, to help others when they fall from a bike, to give a teacher a glass of water or simply to listen to other people while they are talking; are all living evidences that I am including Christian values in my teaching.

There goes the answer, to my own question. I have been practicing Christian teaching all along. Now I see clearly no conflict at all in what I do as a teacher in what people likes to call a non-sectarian organisation, to what I believe in, as a Catholic.