Updated: Apr 5, 2021
Safety Town is a delightful day camp. There, teenagers train four-year-olds in the ways of safety: avoiding tricycle collisions, turning down candy from strangers, forgoing train tracks for proper playgrounds, and not playing with matches. Safety first!
As a mother, I carried on the grand tradition of Safety Town at home: Look both ways! Buckle up! Safety first!
Therefore my son, age 5, was more than prepared for our library's "Fire Safety" program. The firefighter, resplendent in full gear, asked the children what to do when you see a fire.
My son's hand shot up and he did not wait to be recognized: "Stop, drop, and roll it out!" As he demonstrated with his body, everyone burst out laughing.
Thankfully, this was just a drill, and nothing was ACTUALLY ON FIRE.
But what if he had been confronted with a real fire? And what if he, fully convinced of his interpretation of stop-drop-and-roll, had tried heroically to put that blaze out with his own body? Is that an instinct to mock?
Distressed as I was by his misunderstanding, I was proud of his answer. For later in life, he will face fires.
The fire might be a close friend's opioid addiction - will he value the friend over the friendship and intervene?
The fire might be an abusive coach - will he speak up for himself and his friends?
Will he stop, drop, and roll out those fires, or hope they just go out on their own?
Assuredly, personal sin makes for small fires everywhere. Those need to be rolled out before they consume the soul in an unquenchable lake. Fortitude is required to confront our failings. As Francis De Sales wrote, "Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections."
And so our household started to talk a little less about safety and a little more about courage. I tell my children that fear is no cause for shame, since after all, you can't possibly be brave if you aren't afraid. I tell them stories of martyrs and people who spoke truth to power. I remind them frequently that survival is a great good, but it isn't the greatest good - Jesus Christ is the greatest good.
Love comes first.