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Olson: Nothing like a child to change perspective

Published: Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
Avery's cute, isn't she?

It was around 9 p.m. on Dec. 3. I was putting my 5-year-old daughter Allyson to bed.

In seven hours I’d be up again to take her mother to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where she was scheduled to give birth to our third child.

We hadn’t told the children what we planned to name the baby. We figured because we already knew it was going to be our third girl and we already knew when she would be born, the least we could do was keep everyone in the dark about her name.

I was nervous that night. I didn’t want to tell my wife that, considering that she was the one about to have surgery and probably wouldn’t be that sympathetic. But I figured I could confide in a 5-year-old who was about to fall asleep.

Sometimes children’s simple view on the world can bring comfort to adults. I’ve seen it in movies.

“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered.

“Yes. Tell me the baby’s name,” she whispered back. 

“That’s not the secret,” I said. “The secret is, I’m a little nervous about tomorrow.”

“Who cares?” she said. “What’s the baby’s name? I won’t tell.”

Yet again, real life is not like the movies. Maybe it’s the lack of inspirational background music. At any rate, I decide to keep my nerves to myself from then on.

Less than 12 hours later, with the help of some good people on the medical and anesthetic team, my daughter Avery Ryann Olson was born pink and screaming right here in DeKalb. She came out with a full head of hair, too. My wife and I have always made loud, hairy babies.

Once she was born, the anxiety went away.

And here we go: Thoughtful, reflective people considering whether or not to have a child – or another one – likely pause to think about what they’d be getting them into.

Already there are 7 billion people on Earth, taking “selfies” with our iPhones as we pollute the planet and consume finite resources. The next generation will have many problems to solve.

In our household, we only have so much money and can only record so many TV shows on the DVR.

Is it wise to bring another person into all this? Is it selfish?

Those can be tough questions to answer. Unless, like me, you mostly ponder them as you’re holding your new baby. Then they become gimmes.

Are there too many people on Earth? Only if there are too many stars in the sky.

Can we take care of this child? We’ll find a way, just like our parents did.

Is it selfish to make more people? When this baby discovers a cure for cancer or writes a great American novel, it won’t be.

Like many good things in my life, Avery just kind of happened. It had been almost six years since Allyson was born, and I’d forgotten just how remarkable bringing a new life into the world can be, and how it helps your mind separate the trivial matters from things that are truly important.

Since the birth a little more than a week ago, our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers have all been very kind. That matters so much more than the kind of car I drive or the fact that my brother has beaten me three times in a row at “Words With Friends” (“za” and “zee” aren’t words!)

The baby is healthy, and her mother is doing well. That’s what matters most of all. 

Lynch for 6: Today we’ll learn where Northern Illinois University quarterback Jordan Lynch finishes in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. Despite his two-year track record of impressive stats, it’s safe to say he’s a longshot to win.

But Lynch’s simply being there is a big achievement, both for him and for the Huskies football program he represents.

This week in our sports section, there have been many stories written about No. 6, how the NIU coaching staff took a chance on him and were rewarded probably beyond what they could have hoped.

If you haven’t read Lynch’s story, or seen the video retrospective on his career, you can find them online at HuskieWire.com.

That site also has live coverage from the proceedings in New York by our sports writer, Steve Nitz.

The Huskies came up a game short of a return to a BCS bowl this year, but no right-minded fan would dispute the contribution Lynch has made in his two seasons as the starting quarterback.

And for those who fear that the team will backslide after Lynch plays his final game in cardinal and black, remember: People thought the same thing when Lynch’s predecessor, Chandler Harnish, left.

“A” for what, exactly?: They’ve set up a big holiday-themed “Christkindlmarket” in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.

There is a nativity scene, a 20-foot Christmas tree, a menorah. There’s also an 8½-foot-tall scarlet letter “A” that’s been erected there by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The group spend $2,000 to put up their display, which includes a sign with the headline “A is for Atheist.” The sign talks about the group’s “Out Campaign,” which it says aims in part to “eradicate the negative stereotypes of nonbelievers.”

Everyone’s entitled to their beliefs, but it’s hard to see how a big gaudy public display that says the other religions are a lot of fairy tales dispels any stereotypes about atheists. It kind of makes them look like the turd in the holiday eggnog.

I have friends who call themselves atheists. I also have personally seen religion offer great comfort to people, particularly in times of trouble or of dying.

In our modern society, we should be well past religious persecution.

But people’s public celebration of their faith doesn’t harm nonbelievers, and shouldn’t require some kind of “answer.”

The other religious displays don’t attempt to refute other beliefs or say that if you’re an atheist, you’re on the Highway to Hell. Having them on public property doesn’t constitute state endorsement of a particular faith.

Don’t have religion? A 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center shows that 20 percent of American adults – and about a third of those under 30 – don’t, either.

But only 2.4 percent of those surveyed actively identified as “atheists.” And 97 percent of people believe in some kind of God.

People have had their doubts about religion probably for as long as it’s been around. But it’s an institution whose traditions and teachings shape our society in a way that’s overwhelmingly – although not universally – positive.

Beyond attracting attention, it’s hard to see what hope or help a big red “A” is offering our society.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him in Twitter @DC_Editor.

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