Last week my nephew, affectionately called my neff (as in Hey yo, Neff!) because it annoys my sister, was baptized into the Catholic Church and in addition to the privilege of being his aunt I have the honor of being his godmother and his sister’s aunt and godmother. This may be a surprise to some people, especially those who have seen my act. Yes there are things about the Church that I don’t agree with like a woman’s right to choose, its treatment of the LGBTQ community, its mishandling of the clergy molestation scandal, and let’s not forget its silent consent of the slave trade, its platform of non-involvement in the Holocaust, and the Spanish Inquisition. And yes, I poke fun at the Church in my act.
On the flip side of this coin, I think there are a lot of things that the Church gets right. I agree with Jesus’ message of love and tolerance. I believe that the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are a good framework for anybody to lead an upright life. I believe that principles like honesty, fair dealing, and respect for others regardless of their race, nationality, social status, etc. are important. I believe in having a personal relationship with God. I also believe that going to church every week and giving your tithes doesn’t make you a good person. Your character does.
See, that’s what I plan to teach my niece and nephew. You can sit in that pew every week… well religiously and still not be a good person. There are people who go to Church every Sunday but tell the homeless person they see on the street to get a job, kick the stray cats that cross their paths, and then go home and beat their kids, their spouse, and their dog. Then again there are people who don’t go to Church who buy a cup of coffee and give it to the homeless person they see on the street, leave food and clean water out for the stray cat population, play with their kids no matter how tired they are, treat their spouse like gold, and spoil their rescue dog. The difference is character, not how much time you spend sitting in a pew.
My godchildren are going to learn as they grow up that I belong to a charitable organization, that I donate my time to an animal rescue, that I would never ignore a crying child, and that I would never stand idly by and watch someone be abused or bullied. They’re going to learn that I will raise my voice and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves because someone has to do the right thing. I am someone. I can sit and teach them with words, but as they say in Game of Thrones, words are wind. Kids don’t really learn from your words. They learn from your actions. That’s why when my niece was three one of her favorite toys was an old washcloth that she would use to play clean up. My sister cleans a lot and often. My niece was imitating my sister’s actions through her play. Incidentally when she got her play kitchen, she used it only for washing the play dishes until she was four. Then she cooked a little and made hot beverages before playing wash the dishes. What can I say? She’s my sister’s child.
A godparent’s responsibility is to assist a child’s parents in their religious upbringing. I understand that and all jokes about the Church aside, I take it very seriously. The most important thing I can teach them is to be kind and the best way to teach them is by showing kindness. However I also think it’s important that they learn that God has a sense of humor and if all else fails you can do a deathbed retraction. It worked for Chaucer. If they grow into kind, caring individuals I’ll call that a win and anyone who messes with them better pray really hard that I don’t find out. I’m not just their godmother. I’m also their crazy aunt that you may have been warned about.