In the sea of elementary school faces I knew I’d be able to recognize at least his. But where was he. It’d been over a year since I’d been here, and I desperately wanted to see at least one of the children I worked with last year. I didn’t expect them to recognize me or even notice me, I just wanted to see that they were still here.
You gotta love kids. They have this carefree attitude and can let it all go. Today in chapel a mass of 50 toddlers and pre-school age children put on a Christmas play for us. They wiggled, they danced, they laughed. With 2000 college students (and parents) watching with glee. It puts a smile on your face.
Yet again parental responsibility comes to mind. What happens in a society where parents neglect their children? How can this happen? That child is your flesh and blood, your son or daughter, and yet you won’t even show up at her volleyball game. That shocks me. The weighty responsibility of bringing children into this world frightens me. It immobilizes me. Yet some people are able to laugh in the face of this overwhelming duty, and focus solely on themselves. That is what’s wrong with humanity today.
“Oh little girl, so innocent / Don’t leave that love behind / You sing your abc’s / And I think you count just fine / Jordan Michelle / Always stick to what you know / Take our love and let it grow / And leave the world behind / And everything will be alright… / She holds your hand when / We walk down the street / And she sings songs about elmo / And then I know how precious / She must be in your sight” (“Jordi” by Fanmail).
“Cuz this is the way we make the pancakes, make the pancakes, make the pancakes. This is the way we make the pancakes, early in the morning.” The creative cover of the old children’s song echoed through the house, and I rolled over, trying to ignore it. It was way too early for this to start up again. Don’t those kids ever quit? I suppose I answered my own question–they’re kids.
A crying child–the one thing any normal person can’t stand listening to.
“Pick her up,” she commanded. Excuse me? You want me to pick her up? Me, the pathetic, twenty-year-old male who’s never handled a child under two in his life? Her, the crying child under two? You must be joking, right? But the fact that she already had one child in her arms, this child wasn’t about to finish crying, and that stern look told me she wasn’t joking. Okay, here goes nothing.
And so I picked up the crying child. Not knowing at all what to do, I just picked her up, and her little body found a comfortable spot next to mine. Her head rested softly against my chest, and her tiny fingers clutched my shirt sleeves. Her crying ceased. In my arms was a ball of life. A miniature person who probably knows and understands more than she lets on. A person with golden blond hair who shares her plastic carrots and likes to eat Cheerios. A person who can’t do much of anything for herself, and relies on you for comfort, strength, warmth, sustenance–just about everything.
She clung to my shirt like it was the side of a cliff, probably because I wasn’t holding her right. She sat there drooling, content as could be, completely unaware of the barrage of thoughts charging through my head. Who would have thought that picking up a child could make you think so much?
The other night I dreamed I fought in a lightsaber duel. And considering how extremely cool it was, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss. I think one of the coolest things about the Star Wars saga is the lightsabers. It’s one of several truly original things in Star Wars. Of course Star Wars is more than your average sci-fi flick, but if you compare them, most sci-fi flicks have space ships and lasers and big scary bad guys. But how many have laser swords? How cool is that? It can cut through anything. It can deflect laser blasts. It’s also cool because it’s nothing you can actually have.
And now the continuing stories of your favorite hero, Kevin D. Hendricks, kindergarten volunteer. Today number recognition was left behind and new ground was forged in rhyming words, letter sounds, and how not to listen to the teacher. Today demanded patience, energy, and quick thinking. Needless to say, when I finally returned home I took two aspirin and crashed on the couch, refusing to move for half an hour. I now have a new found respect for teachers that somehow manage to do this every day. Are they really dedicated people (a.k.a. crazy), or just well paid?
“If I do not acquire ideals in my youth, when will I? Not in my old age.” (from Maimonides, as quoted in The Rule of St. Benedict: Insights of the Ages by Joan Chittister, pg 164)
“Money often costs too much.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted in The Rule of St. Benedict: Insights of the Ages by Joan Chittister, pg 150)
“I used to believe in things when I was a kid.” – Homer Simpson
Why is it that as we grow older we quickly lose our ability to believe in things. Our imaginations shrivel up and die, we no longer feel justified in believing something a little bit different. Little kids believe in all sorts of crazy stuff, and they don’t feel ashamed. Yet as we grow older we feel the need to assimilate and be just like everyone else. It’s kind of silly really. Is it just because kids have less at stake? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“A little child can not do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad prayer. ‘A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms. As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep. Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms. Our prayer is much like that. We settle down in our Father’s arms, in his loving hands. Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there, we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will. It is very simple prayer. It is very child like prayer. It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom.'” From The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (page 155)
How often do we really think of God as Father, as Daddy. So often we think of the colossal cosmic creator, the mighty God of judgement and vengeance, the God of wrath. But he is also the God that loves us as his dear children. Like a loving father, he wants us to curl up in his lap. The masterpiece we spent hours coloring may look like slop to another, but our Father frames it. It’s refreshing to think that when I pray–when I stumble for the words to say, when my mind wanders and I find myself thinking of tomorrow’s test, or even when I nod off to sleep–it’s refreshing to think that God is still pleased. My prayers never amount to more than child like mumbles, but that doesn’t matter to God.
God adores the simplicity of a child. Too bad we’ve gone off and ruined it.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17 NIV