What We Learn from Children
(Posted July 7, 2023)
“Children are the purest manifestation of love and divinity in the world; they care, they are considerate and they know more about humanity than the smartest adult. We must protect, guide and allow the children of our world to flourish because they are the key to heal this broken planet.” ― Sam Fuentes, survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus himself remarked on how wisdom and grace seems to be withheld from judgmental, fault-finding adults. Instead, children seem to understand why Jesus sought out the outcast, and those who are different from the people who judge them.
Different Is Not a Big Deal
To a young child, being different isn’t such a big deal. After all, to a young child EVERYTHING is different and fresh. I think of some of today’s news clips of little children listening to a children’s book read by a drag queen. To adults who condemn the man who dresses like that, this scene may be offensive, something to be prohibited. But by the expression on the children’s faces I can tell that the kids simply see and enjoy listening to the story book by a colorful, kind person. You won’t find the heavy hand of judgment in this scene, unless an adult has planted the seed of prejudice
The Open Mind
I know from my years working with Connecticut Audubon. Each week we brought together several classes of third graders to study plants and bugs and critters in the woods. These kids weren’t at all phased by their different skin color or that the other children came from Bridgeport or from Fairfield. Why? Educators schooled us in the fact that a child’s mind is open, receptive and accepting of others who may be different from them in some way, up and through 3rd grade. Up until then, different-ness isn’t connected at all to being “less than” someone else.
Closing a Mind
Beyond that age, it’s adults who instruct them to hate, to fear, to judge. Anyone is fair game. Something negative will be assigned one who is different, Jesus says of his contemporary adults: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!“
Things haven’t changed much today, have they?
Vive la Différence
We’ve just come though a week of Independence Day celebrations. I sincerely hope that the fireworks joy we experienced, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who may be different from us, can translate into knowing that, as a country we are one. Because the question is now being asked: When in three years we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, will we be able to come together as a country?
Want to know how? I think the best thing will be to ask a little child. They’ll tell you.