50 Thoughts: Take a Knee at the Altar of Common Sense

Originally published August 22, 2018

So I’m not exactly what you would call “religious.”

This is not exactly shocking to my friends. What is shocking? When I cop to teaching Sunday School for a few years back when the kids were elementary-aged. They find it not just shocking but wildly amusing.

It’s not THAT much of a stretch, if you look at my younger years. I grew up in a casual relationship with church – we went occasionally as a family, and when my dad died, my mom made a concerted effort to find a church home. We landed at a small Methodist congregation on the East Side, where I joined the youth group and became fast friends with the pastor’s daughter.

We attended for several years, until we moved to the Chicago area and then played for the Presbyterians. At that point, I was in high school and less interested in church, but my parents became active members. My sister was married there. Me? I opted for my husband’s mother’s Catholic parish. Where I was sure to tell the deacon I was not promising the Pope anything in my vows. Not a super fan.

And then I had kids of my own. And some kind of church guilt settled in, because I felt like if I didn’t at least have my kids christened, I was doing something wrong. I knew it meant something, not just to my own grandmother, but really, to me. I didn’t want them coming back years later asking why I hadn’t tried to start them off on a solid moral footing.

We attached ourselves to a fantastic nondemoninational church that was comfortable to both our Protestant and Cahtolic aesthetics, and … yeah. I taught Sunday School for a few years to kids that knew more than I did. I just supplied the snacks and the craft paper.

Interestingly, this Pew Research survey was released a few weeks back. I was not surprised to see a steady decline in church attendance. When we moved to Chicago, we backed away from it. Our excuse — not having time to find a new church home — is one of the more common reasons given by those surveyed.

But I wonder too if something else is going on with us, we women of a certain age. Of course, there’s the emotions ranging from a general disdain to complete and thorough outrage at organized religion. But we are busy. We are tired. We are conflicted. Yes, we are lazy on occasion. We’ve earned it. But what about those of us that did find some kind of grounding in a regular Sunday sermon?

I think for me, as I age, I’m more inclined to identify as agnostic. Spiritual, even, but not in any kind of structured form. But for a day to day moral compass, I reach for what I know to be just simple, straight up common sense.

  • Don’t want to get a bad grade? Do your homework.
  • Kids, would you rather I don’t blow a gasket? Don’t let your friends smoke in the car or the house.
  • Want to avoid getting fired and instead, get promoted at your job? Show up on time, smile and get your shit done.
  • Looking for friends? Be a friend.
  • Hoping to impress your girlfriend’s parents? Don’t dress like a hobo when you are meeting them for the first time. (Hobo shaming, I know. Sorry.)
  • Wish your coworkers looked in your eyes and not at your boobs? Try a shirt that isn’t cut to the navel.
  • Want to keep your head attached to your shoulders? Wear a helmet. (Also, it’s always a good idea to avoid hitchhikers. And hitchhiking.)
  • Don’t want to gain weight? Put down the doughnut. And the burrito. And the beer. (Eh, who wants to be that skinny anyway?)
  • Would prefer not to get mocked mercilessly on the interwebs? Don’t marry a narcissist that mocks people daily in the midst of your cyberbullying campaign.
  • Desperate to make a difference in Washington, D.C.? VOTE.

If there’s anything I hope I impart to my children as they grow older, it’s the ability to divine what to do simply from considering the common sense environment surrounding the situation. I’ve written before about kids dressing inappropriately and mistaking exploitation for empowerment. And it seems more and more these days, people throw common sense out the window in favor of letting their ass hang out the back of their shorts while riding the bus (the germs, MY GOD THE GERMS). But I am hopeful their decision making skills are based in what’s good for them, not what’s good for the moment.

Today’s recommendation: How Not to Be a Dick. It’s the I Ching of Common Sense etiquette for kids and young adults.

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