“Who can tell us what Hanukkah means?” asked Ms. Simon my third-grade teacher one long ago December day. My hand shot up eagerly and I started into the story of how Judah Maccabee led a revolt against the Syrians. I continued with descriptions of the dreidel game and the nine candles on a menorah. She was impressed enough by my knowledge of the holiday that she mentioned it to my mother at the next parent-teacher conference. That’s when Ms. Simon admitted her astonishment that we are not a Jewish family.
A seed planted: Respect
During the four years we lived in that Los Angeles neighborhood, I assimilated both Jewish and Christian traditions into my childhood spirituality. You know how kids are: I thought this was something every family did. For me, it wasn’t a matter of learning to respect. Respect for a different tradition was the norm in my home so I did it.
A seed planted: Find the common denominator
In my teen years my mother, a gifted teacher and storyteller, decided to offer a holiday program to area churches which were planning a December social event for their members. Her theme was common ground. I remember only five points in her outline — significance of light in both holidays, back stories, gift-giving, use of traditional foods, for instance, latkes or eggnog, and music.
My guitar and I went along to these popular events to entertain. But more was going on in my spiritual formation during these Christmas-Hanukkah programs. I caught the importance of a focus on how we are alike rather than different, though our theological differences are not insignificant.
Seeds sprout into Child-Centered Spirituality
It was a natural outgrowth of my upbringing to envision a book for families of any religion or no religion. In it, my coauthor Tara Miller and I pass along practical ideas and suggestions to assist family members in the spiritual development of their children to the same degree that grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents encourage emotional, social, intellectual, physical development.
Childhood spiritual development is occurring for the children you love during this 2018 holiday season. What part do you want to have in facilitating it?
Tweetable: My parents’ choice to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas planted a valuable seed of respect in me. Read the positive effects here. Click to Tweet