Helping our kids be charitable in the world

By Kyle Dyer

Kyle Dyer, of Kyle Dyer Storytelling, is a former TV news anchor who hosts the monthly Engage events for Catholic Charities. See more at ccdenver.org/kylescorner.

I am increasingly drawn to stories of youngsters in our community, and across the globe, who are stepping up to help others. This Generation Z, or Gen Z, is proactive in finding solutions to issues and setting goals to make a positive impact.

Gen Z is a hopeful bunch. They’re optimistic not only about what our communities, our country and our world can become, but they are also confident that they have the power to help and make things better. Their age doesn’t hold them back.

When I approach any story, I search out “the why” someone is motivated to do what they do. In helping Catholic Charities of Denver tell its life-changing stories, I’ve come across some inspiring examples, recently published in the quarterly Charity Works and collected at ccdenver.org/kylescorner.

“For Grace’s 12th birthday party, she asked family and friends to collect toiletries and help her pack 100 sack lunches for residents at Samaritan House.” (Charity runs in the family, as Grace’s grandfather is Michael Sinnett, the Vice President of Shelters at Catholic Charities.)

Grace wants those with nowhere to live to realize that they are special, that they are loved and supported. Grace is considering doing something similar when she turns 13 in June.

As parents, don’t we all want our own children to think of others and to be charitable?

Gen Z is made up of those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Their world is way more complex than when I grew up. They’re keenly aware of what’s going on and they’re reacting. They are peeling away at some of the uncertainty, unrest and unhappiness by galvanizing each other to make a positive difference and be charitable.

This is a generation unlike anything we’ve seen before. They are realistic and resourceful. They may see stories of injustice, war, violence and natural disasters through their social media accounts. They watch, read and listen to how hearts are mended and communities are rebuilt through love and people simply being compassionate to one another. They say, “Why can’t I do that?” And they do it!

Parents, engage with your children, ask them to identify a problem they see in society. What is one thing they would like to help change? Ask them how they would solve that problem.

Here’s another inspiring story from Catholic Charities. Tabitha, 13, who has younger siblings, was inspired to do something for women in crisis pregnancies.

“I have always had babies in danger of abortion and their mothers, fathers, and families very close to my heart, because of my little siblings,” Tabitha wrote in a note, published with her story in Charity Works. “They have shown me that children and babies are people; and how precious and invaluable those people are.”

Tabitha’s baby shower for Marisol Health resulted in baby clothing, boxes of diapers and six car seats. That is inspiration for this season and year-round.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas of love, compassion and engagement!

COMING UP: Catholic Baby University prepares parents for the real deal

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Heidi and Jim Knous had no idea that something like a Catholic childbirth education existed. But not long after finding out the great news that they were expecting their first child, Brady, they came across an article in the Denver Catholic introducing Catholic Baby University — a program designed to teach expecting parents the nuts and bolts of both childbirth and Catholicism.

“I think it’s special because it gives you an opportunity to step back from all the registries and baby shower… and to really take time to come together as a couple to think about this vocation, what parenthood is … and how you want that to look for your family,” Heidi said.

“I think there’s a lot of distractions when you’re about to have a child,” Jim added. “Everybody knows it’s going to be tough and you’re going through a lot. Everybody’s trying to tell you, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ But Catholic Baby U really gives you a solid understanding of what having a child is going to be like and includes the values that we learned as a family in raising a baby in the Catholic faith.”

Jim and Heidi Knous and their son Brady, are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. (Photo provided)

 

The Catholic Baby University holistic program for parents — offered both as a weekend retreat or a six-class series — is the result of the partnership between Rose Medical Center and the Archdiocese of Denver and was inspired by the previously-founded Jewish Baby University.

The classes touch on topics dealing with childbirth instruction, postpartum experience, baby safety and the Catholic faith — and they are taught and facilitated by certified birth and safety instructors, mental health professionals, and members from the Office of Evangelization and Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Statistically, people become more religiously involved when they have children, so we want to respond to people’s desires to reengage their faith with the coming of their child,” said Scott Elmer, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and also a facilitator of the program, in a previous interview. “We want to be there to welcome them, celebrate the new life, and give them the tools they need to incorporate God into their home life.”

For Jim and Heidi, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the experience of having both the childbirth and Catholic aspects in this preparation did not disappoint, as they learned from each one.

“It was a great opportunity to come back and think about things from a basic level again and how to bring our child into the faith — things that you haven’t necessarily thought of or how you would teach a child something, [like praying],” Heidi said.

“Something we learned [that really made me reflect] was that the bond between me and Brady and between Heidi and Brady are very different. It happens at very different times,” Jim shared. “Right away when Heidi finds out she’s pregnant, then her bonding with Brady already starts all the way until Brady’s born. As a dad, it doesn’t start until he is born and I’m actually holding him.”

Heidi assured the concept of “gatekeeping” also helped them prepare for parenting better.

“[Gatekeeping] is when, as a mom, you get really wrapped up in, ‘Only I know how to change baby diapers, only I know how to feed the baby, only I know how to do this,’” Heidi explained. “And I am someone who I could’ve seen thinking that I could be the only person that knew how to take care of [my child]. But gaining that understanding helped us co-parent a lot easier from the very beginning because I was aware of it.”

“I would tell [expecting couples] that Catholic Baby University is a great place to start, to gain community, to meet other people that are in a similar place that you are in; having people in the same room who are just as excited, just as terrified who also want to learn,” Heidi concluded. “It’s just a really awesome opportunity to take advantage of.”