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May 11, 2012, Friday

Reflections on Mother’s Day

“Heaven lies under the feet of mothers.” -- Hadith Tomorrow in Turkey, and in many countries around the world, Mother’s Day is observed.

Traditionally, it is a day set aside to celebrate the bonds of motherhood and to recognize the role of mothers in society. While some decry the holiday as a marketing ploy to sell more flowers and chocolates and to book more tables at restaurants, since ancient times, festivals have been held in honor of mothers, both divine and earthly.

When I was young, every year I would ask my mother what she wanted for Mother’s Day. Her answer was always the same. “I want you to be healthy and happy.” At the time, I thought this to be a standard answer, a line that mothers said so that their children did not feel obligated to purchase an expensive gift or plan an elaborate meal. It was not until I became a mother myself that I finally understood what she had meant and the wisdom behind my own mother’s words.

“I want you to be healthy and happy.” These are not just empty words, said lightly. All mothers have dreams for their children. In many cases, they hope their children will have the chance for better lives than they have had. Some hope and pray that their children have the opportunity to obtain a good, solid education, while others see economic and social advantages in finding a way to help their children marry and raise a family of their own.

Unfortunately, in too many instances, children around the world do not have the chance to be healthy or know real happiness. Lack of access to education can destroy any dreams of a future, condemning a child to a life of poverty and, too often, physical, psychological and emotional abuse. Without education, what kind of a future does a child face? Those taken out of school, or not even allowed to attend school at all, will end up unable to support themselves or their families. Their contact with the outside world becomes limited, and any opportunities to grow and learn are missed out on.

For a child to be happy and healthy, they need to be raised in a family, and a society, that not only loves them, but that also sees their value. We have all heard it said that children are the future. They are the ones we place our hopes in for a better life, a better society, a better world. However, without every child being able to receive an education and being allowed to expand their horizons, what does that future look like? How many dreams will be dashed because of a lack of educational opportunities?

In societies, cultures and countries that do not place value on the education of children, especially girls, the future looks bleak indeed. One of the first steps in correcting the situation is to convince parents of the importance of schooling for all their children, not just the eldest or only the males. Girls deserve, and need, the same opportunities in life as boys.

“I want you to be healthy and happy.” In addition to educational prospects, access to healthcare is vital. Without access to even the most basic healthcare, many mothers die in childbirth and numerous children pass away during their early years from illnesses and diseases that are usually easily treatable. Universal healthcare is essential to the survival of families.

So, what is my wish for this Mother’s Day? To echo my own mother, when my son asked me what I wanted for the holiday, I told him I only wanted him to be healthy and happy. As he rolled his eyes in exasperation and asked what I really wanted, I merely smiled back at him. While he has seen poverty and has asked about the children he has seen working on the streets in many countries, he is far removed from their everyday reality. We are fortunate to be able to live in relative security, knowing that we have a roof over our heads, clean clothes to wear, nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink and the opportunity to attend good schools. Even though we are not by any means financially wealthy, I know that I am able to provide what my child needs and, on occasion, even provide things he does not need for survival but wants for entertainment.

I want my son to understand that we are indeed fortunate to live in the style we presently are accustomed to. To a large percentage of the world, living in poverty and struggling to supply the most basic needs for their families, we are indeed rich. My feeling is that while we may not have the comfort of a large bank account or investments, we should be aware of the blessings we have in our lives. We live in a home that is filled with love and hope and dreams for the future. We are fortunate and should never take any of this for granted.

Like my mother, what I want for Mother’s Day is simple. I wish that all children will have the opportunity to grow up healthy and happy.

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