One of the things that impressed me is that all the engines were concerned to please the owner of the railroad, Sir Topham Hatt. They wanted to do a good job to make Sir Topham Hatt (STH) happy. At first this put me off, since STH looks like nothing less than the characterization of the worst sort of industrialist-capitalist oppressor of the working classes. But as I watched, this soon faded, and what came to the fore was the genuine concern and desire of the engines to fulfill their responsibilities, do a good job, be reliable for all those who depended on them, and to please their owner. And that is really rather charming.
All of us, I would argue, have in us an innate desire to be responsible, to do well, to discharge our duties faithfully, to give a positive return for our life. This desire to be responsible is not just, nor even primarily, about our particular career or work, but rather our whole sense of what our life is about. Are we just leeches that only take in life, or do we somehow make a positive contribution that makes things better than what we found them? I think this urge is strong in children. I love seeing the kids participate in the Catholic Relief Services packing of thousands of meals for Africa that we have done the last couple years here. Children don’t just want to be recipients and drains on the family. They have a desire to know that they contribute something to the wellbeing of the family. Children may resist doing chores around the house, but it is really important for them to know that they are contributors to the family and not just a burden. Kids who have it too easy really lose out, and eventually lose their sense of being a contributor. That is so important to a sense of self-worth.
The same is also true for adults. We have all been blessed with wonderful gifts: time, talent, treasures, supportive relationships and many others. Not least among these is the wonderful gift of Faith that makes life full of meaning, of purpose, of sense. These gifts are not given to us just for us to enjoy, just to receive, as if we are drains that gifts flow into but nothing ever comes back.
Rather we have been entrusted with these gifts to build up the common good. As St. Peter in his First letter states: “