Change The World

Posted: August 17, 2009 in thriving
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Let The Children Change the World

I love kids and teens and young adults. Kids are smart. Young people are resilient.  Young people rock, even when life is hard.

 Rodney Dangerfield, remarking on childhood trauma said,  “When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”

Rodney Dangerfield and the Bible and have something in common; they both narrate accounts of tough childhoods. But the Bible goes further than Mr. Dangerfield. It finishes the childhood narratives with fine endings.

Moses was abandoned in a basket in a river, but he became the ruler of Egypt. David, a mere boy, faced an abusive adult, and using simple technology, defeated him.  Young Ruth’s husband died, but Ruth found another man to love her, and she had a baby boy, an ancestor of Jesus.

 Mary, pregnant and unmarried, suffered the social judgment of her community, but she gave birth to Jesus.  Paul had a narrow, legalistic childhood education, but he wrote a lion’s share of a very radical and liberating text, the New Testament.

 Kids survive tough stuff and thrive! Many people in history and today are proof of that. Many of us have enter adulthood as survivors, having overcome illness, dislocation, abandonment,  losses of all kinds.

 Once my brothers and I were playing baseball with a golf ball. We thought it was a good idea. It wasn’t. A golf ball goes hard when hit with a wooden bat.   I hit a line drive. It hit my brother in the mouth. He is still sending me the dental bills. I still regret the mistake.

 Early years can be tough; but young people can be tougher.

Childhood resilience? Our modern, cultural narratives often celebrate it.  In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,Count Olaf is trying to kill the three Baudelaire orphans for their inheritance. The villain, Olaf, played by Jim Carrey, leaves the children in a car on the railroad tracks. Young Violet makes a spring loaded, bobble-headed track switcher and the children escape harm with ingenuity and resolve. Fiction? Consider this. 

Laurence Gonzales, in his well-researched book Deep Survival, asks the question:  Who has most chance of surviving in a wilderness crisis, exposed to the elements? Answer: Children six and under have one of the highest survival rates. Gonzales writes, “They often survive in the same conditions better than experienced hunters, better than physically fit hikers, better than former members of the military or skilled sailors. “If they get cold, reports Gonzales,  they find a warm place. If they tire, they rest. “They try to make themselves comfortable, and staying comfortable helps keep the alive.”

Jesus himself thought so highly of kids, he put them up as the world’s top model! 

 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. 

 But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom.

 Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

 Jesus was crazy about children! Jesus bragged on children. Jesus said children owned the kingdom! Jesus said we should learn from children. Learn what? We should learn to be simple, receptive and open.   

 Life is hard. People hurt people.  They make bad decisions. Then, too often, a parent-like voice within a person’s pschye chides:  “What is wrong with you? Grow up. Pull yourself together. Your future is up to you.”

 But Jesus says, “Don’t grow up in every way. Remain like the children in their simple trust. They know they need help. They know they can’t control and fix everything. They come near for help. Children model appropriate and wise dependence; it is with a simple childlike faith that we come into God’s peaceable kingdom.

 Robert Coles, Harvard Child psychiatrist, in his studies, Children of Crisis, shows us that children in difficult circumstances — poverty, loss,  family break-up — often exhibit “authority, dignity, fragility, and rock-bottom strength.”  And there is frequently a trust in God present.

Ruby Bridges, was the first African-American child to attend an all-white school in the South in 1960. In the face of violent, resistance, little Ruby stood up, and marched to class each day. She helped bring about school desegregation in New Orleans. Her mother told Robert Coles, Ruby’s counselor, that Ruby prayed for those in the mob who threatened and harassed her.

 Ruby had an inner moral compass. She looked to God to deal with evil. This is not untypical. Children, as Coles showed in his book The Spiritual Life of Children, often try to figure out life by tapping into spirituality.

 Again, we see this reality portrayed in our culture’s popular stories. In the movie, Bridge to Terabithia, a young girl named Leslie goes to church for the first time with her friend Jeff. On the ride home in the back of a pickup, Leslie grapples with  deep theological issues. Jess and his little sister have grown up in church, but they focus on the fearful prospect of God damning people to hell.  Leslie is just hearing the spiritual narrative for the first time, and she sees the vibrant life in it. She thinks the Jesus narrative is beautiful. She revels in the goodness of God surrounding her; she lifts her hands to the trees and sun as the children in the back of the truck glide home through the splendor!

 Kids think about God, and not just in movie life. Many children, like adults, try to make sense out of the idea of a loving God in an evil world. Children need adults to teach them and to dialogue with them, but adults should also encourage children to think, wonder, ask questions and try to make their own expressions of wonder and faith. By opening a discussion with children, adults are helping develop thinkers and doers. Remember again, that Jesus himself made children the model of true spirituality.

 And let’s take it further than talk. Life rcries out for collaboration and action.  We need, and the children need, to struggle together over what to do with tough issues, issues that touch deeply,  like poverty and loss of parents. Really, sitting at the core of all this,  is the truth that we need to include children in helping us solve life’s big problems.

 When five thousand people needed to be fed, who offered a loaf of bread and five fish to Jesus disciples? A child did! Only a child had the good sense to bring a lunch that day, and give it away.

In my community, last Easter, children from several churches helped make almost 300 Easter baskets for homeless children and under-resourced children. In the spring these children helped make 150 birthday boxes for foster children. Then in the summer they helped put together 200 backpacks, full of school supplies, for foster and refugee children. Children in our community, are changing the world.

 A teacher in our preschool lost her mom this year. One of her three year olds, Taylor, asked her: “Did your mommy die?”

 “Yes, she did,” answered the teacher.

 Then three-year old Taylor said, “I have a mommy. And my mommy can be your mommy too.”

 Children get it right. Children want to be part of the solution. Children will share their lunch, their mommy, with others.

 There is extreme value in children serving children.

 It exposes children to the needs of their peers.

 My daughter just got back from a mission’s trip to La Paz. She told me, “Now I have a place in my heat for Mexico.”

 It expands their confidence that needs can be met.

 Ruby Bridges is now chairwoman of her foundation that promotes toleration of differences.

  It shapes them into future world changers.

 After David killed Goliath, he went on to become king.

 I have a friend, Rich, who is a highway patrol officer. He is also a fantastic volley ball player. Rich just got back from a Volley Ball tournament in Vancouver. He took his two grade school daughters, and they did a mountain climb. The climbed up a couple miles of switch backs. Rich is in good shape, but he was panting at the top. Then Rich bragged to me, “My littlest daughter, skinny little Kristin, she never broke a sweat. She never even breathed hard!”

 Children have energy! We tout the energy in wind power. We know the potential of solar power. We keep tapping the polluting energy of fossil fuel power.

 What about kid power? Jesus believed in it. So should we. Let the children change the world!

  1. laurelhasper says:

    young people do rock! and they have the power to do big things. your confidence in the young people of the world is so right on. this is why you’re probably one of the coolest (and in my opinion best) dad’s ever. 🙂

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