I met my granddaughter Ava for the first time last week. My wife and I spent eight days holding her, caring for her, playing with her, feeding her, changing her and pretty much watching her for the entire time. She – like any infant - is such a miracle and a mystery. I have to believe that any parent or grandparent who cradles an infant in their arms, close to their heart is quickly confronted with the idea of history and lineage. I know I had to stop and think about all of the couples and all of the circumstances that came together from the beginning of time to create this unique human being; that there has been no one like Ava before and there will be no one like her after she is gone. She is a blessing. We are all a blessing.
At seven weeks old, I know that Ava couldn’t understand me, but I talked to her any way. I talked to her incessantly. I told her stories of her great grandmother who is now 100 years old – my mom – who played basketball on a traveling basketball team in 1934. I told her about her aunt Rachel who has a big heart; who is teaching in a city school and who never saw a sport she wasn’t ready to conquer. I told her about her other aunt who has faced the difficulties of life and who has learned to thrive and survive. I told her about her grandmother – my wife – who was a flight for life nurse and who saved people’s lives. I told her about my sisters who are successful business women but who will stand in front of a bullet for anyone in our family. I told her all these stories because stories matter. Knowing where you came from and who you came from matters.
As she grows, Ava will have her own story to tell. She will make her own way through this life, just as each of us has done. But, I will make certain that she is steeped in the stories of the men and women who make up her genes. I will help her to understand that family matters and that we are all here to serve others. In her video blog, Defining A Movement, Katherine Center says “What you do matters. You must be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.” Baby Ava comes from a long line of strong and brave women. Now it is her turn to tell her story; one that will matter. I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.