“Something being one’s own and being loved are the two things that most cause human beings to take diligent care.”
Aristotle, Politics

It was in a sermon I heard this past weekend. In describing a holy young man the priest said: “And already at that age, he noticed the poor.” He then slowly repeated: “He noticed the poor,” the word “noticed” being delivered in such a way as to be completely arresting.

I began to consider all that is implied in the word ‘notice;’ how different it is than the word ‘see.’ There are many things we see, but nevertheless do not notice. Perhaps we see the poor regularly, but it is easy not to notice them.

And then for some reason I thought of my children. Do I really notice them, as I should?

If I do not notice what is going on in their lives, who will? Indeed, how often have I missed what is really going on with them, only to realize later what I had not noticed. Later, when in some ways it was too late.

Particularly as blessed with several children, I will need to be especially aware of the one or two that might not speak up or stand out. It is of course convenient for me to assume that all is well. Whether all really is well is another question.

Yet even when all is well, a child deserves that the ins and outs of his particular situation be noticed.

The point is not to be anxious or overly hard on myself. But I cannot but think: by a natural order it is I their father who is especially entrusted with the duty, the challenge, and the joy, of noticing : noticing much that could very easily be missed. What else will have been worth my attention, if not this?

Aristotle made the above statement in the context of refuting Socrates’s suggestion in the Republic that children be raised in common by the whole community of adults. He saw that children need parents, as well as other adults close to them, who focus on them as their own, taking an ever so diligent care.

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Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Politics is his major political work, in which he includes a consideration of the household.


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