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King: This Christmas, give the gift of ourselves to Mother Earth

POSTED: December 25, 2012 1:00 a.m.

My column appears every other Tuesday. The last time it fell on Christmas Day was 2001. The headline was, “Gift of a child is the reason for Christmas.”

In 2001, the child in my life was our granddaughter, Anna. We’d cared for her since she was 3, but legally she was not ours. The case went to court, and the judge promised a decision before Dec. 25.

The decision did not come. I prepared for Christmas knowing that at any moment we might lose this, the most important gift of all. The stress was taking its toll. In “The gift of a child,” I listed the challenges any parent faces when caring for the next generation: The need for faith, the need for family and community, and the need to care for one’s self so that the caretaker remains strong and centered.

At last, in January I learned I was officially Anna’s guardian. At age 69, I became a Mama all over again. She was now ours to love and ours to nurture as she grew into adulthood. I prepared to do all the things parents do these days: car pools, supervising homework, parent-teacher consultations, planning balanced meals that appeal to a child’s taste, finding a baby sitter if my husband and I wanted to go out.

In a way, I may have been a better mother in my 70s than I was the first time around because experience had taught me the importance of patience and flexibility. Today, Anna is about to turn 17, a delightful and self-confident young woman. My husband and I have done everything we could to see she had a good start on life. Now we must begin to let go.

Today, Anna’s future depends on others, people like you and the thousands of others who make up this country and the larger world in which we live in. However, in a certain way nothing has changed. The same challenges listed in my 2001 column still apply. The only difference is their magnitude.

The need for family is no longer confined to parents and extended family members. Anna’s family is the human race, the family of man. We are all members of the same species and we are all responsible for the survival of our kind.

The need for faith is no longer confined to our local church or denomination. A spiritual life is an ethical life, a life filled with concern for others and gratitude for existence itself.

Perhaps the most important challenge for this next generation is caring for the caretaker, the earth on which we all depend. Unless nations address global warming head on and agree to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the world will continue to heat up. Floods and drought will continue to disrupt the economy. People will loose all faith in government and will turn on one another in ways we can hardly imagine.

The earth nurtures us all. Mother Nature is not a metaphor. The earth is our mother. We cannot continue extracting the earth’s resources and turning them into trash. If my child and your child are to have any future at all, science and technology must be refashioned to serve the earth — and thereby the welfare of all of us — not the appetites of entrepreneurs.

This Christmas column is a plea to all who read it. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan — all major religious holidays center on the family, but the family will not survive if its children have no future. It takes more than parents, more than a community to meet this challenge. It takes all of us.

This Christmas think about the earth. Recycle when you can. Reduce your energy consumption. Boycott waste wherever you see it. Write your members of Congress in support of carbon reductions measures. The future of our children is in your hands.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at


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