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There's that meaning of life thing again

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By Michael O'Hare
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

They are seemingly discrete observations:

• We witnessed a baptism in our church on Sunday morning.

• We visited briefly with our first-born granddaughter, Elizabeth, on Sunday afternoon. She is 12.

• Her mother, Heather, casually put her head on my shoulder as we sat on the sofa next to her brother that day, chatting and glancing at the baseball game on TV.

• On the coffee table at home is the latest Time magazine with a portrait on the cover of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl shot by the Taliban for her education-rights activism.

• And on TV this week, more news about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old charged in the Boston Marathon bomb attack. He is just seven years older than our oldest granddaughters.

• One of the victims of the bombing was just 8 years old.

In my mind (scary as that place can be) these things are not completely unrelated.

They each speak of the place of children in our world and to the responsibility of adults to them.

We often hear the remark that the children are our future and we nod in agreement. But do we really get it? And do we really take that responsibility seriously?

We baptism them, but it is just a ceremony if we don't help in their direction continuously thereafter.

We visit with them, but do we take the time to encourage them to talk with us, to get to know them? As they get older it will become more and more of an effort to communicate. At some point they are sure we don't know anything. I got Elizabeth to toss me a smile at one point Sunday, but otherwise she was occupied with a friend.

The part about her mother putting her head on my should I will get to later.

And then to the larger world: We use children in horrible ways, we make them victims, as the case with the Pakistani girl, the young bombing victim and apparently the alleged teen bomber himself.

I am reminded of the pictures of teen boys in the area's coal mines, of young boys and girls working in the factories of the late 1800s and early 1900s, of child laborers even to this day in other nations.

Throughout the course of history, children have been used by adults as if the children “belonged” to them and not as the human beings in whom we need to instill love, for themselves and for others.

The old line “I didn't ask to be born” is true, and now it is our responsibility as parents to show them why being born is a miracle.

By the time they are old enough to say “what is the meaning of life,” the meaning of life should be self evident.

The meaning is in noticing, through the drizzle of Wednesday morning this week, that many of the trees seemed to have greened over night.

The meaning is that in the course of a week in which a building blast killed so many in Texas and violence momentarily held sway in Boston that thousands of new and loved babies were born and the lives of those who died were celebrated by the loved ones they left behind. And that millions of people kissed each other good night.

If you teach your children to love the goodness in life, I must caution you not to expect a reward.

Except, perhaps, in a few fleeting moments. And that gets me to those few minutes when Heather put her head on my shoulder, or when she and Mary Ellen and Ryan and Elizabeth all hugged one another as we said our goodbyes for the day. There is that meaning of life thing again.

Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to

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