Friday, January 13, 2017
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” ― Angela Schwindt
“There’s a little boy here with two small fish and five small pieces of bread. If you can’t be like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And a little child shall lead them.” If the preceding sentences and phrases sound familiar, they should. They are words from the Bible, specifically the stories about Christ and things that He said. My wife and I love children and surround ourselves with them. My wife has dedicated her life to teaching and helping children—not exactly an unworthy thing to do. I just love their laughter, their innocence, and the way they can take years off my age and bring a smile to my face on the darkest of days. If we pay attention, children can teach us almost all we need to know about how to live a life of joy and service. Here are a couple of examples of true events just to illustrate this point. There are thousands, and you know many of them. Maybe you don’t know these, but they just underline the points that Christ made about paying attention to and taking care of the little ones.
When my middle son, John, was six years old and coming to the end of the school year, he asked me if he could have six-months worth of allowance all at one. I suspected he was up to something, so I wanted to know why he wanted that much at once (came to about $10.00). He didn’t want to tell me, he wanted to surprise me. I didn’t think he was going to surprise me at all, but I wrote out a contract that laid out how much he was getting and when he would get his next allowance money. He signed the paper without hesitation. I gave him the money and waited for the toy he was wanting to show up at our house. I didn’t see a toy or hear anything else about it for a few weeks. I had about forgotten about it, when his teacher called me one afternoon. She said, “I know you’re proud of John, but I just wanted you to know that I am, too.” Confused, I asked why. She said, “You don’t know? John just became the youngest donor ever to give a book to the library. He gave it in his mother’s name. We were stunned, as John has had well, a difficult year here and to give a book to the library—it was something none of us expected.” John had been right. I was surprised, and I tore up the contract. He started getting his allowance again far earlier than he expected. He’s been doing stuff like that ever since. He just came into a little money, and the first thing he wanted to do was to buy a pump for a community well. I’m still proud.
This next story is about the son of a teacher friend of mine who is justifiably proud of her son, too. “In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” “50 cents,” replied the waitress (this was obviously quite a while ago). The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. “How much is a dish of plain ice cream?” he inquired. Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. “35 cents,” she said brusquely, getting upset with the boy. The little boy again counted the coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes because there, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were 15 cents – her tip.”
I hate it when I hear parents use disparaging terms for their children like “rug rats” or “little tax deductions” or “little monsters.” Children are moral mirrors who all too often reflect what they have been shown about themselves by their parents. It should be the other way around, we ought to reflect the kindness and generosity they show to others—and in so doing, often show us up. We say “. . . as the twig is bent . . .” when we need to be learning from the twig and not bending it. A little child shall lead us, but only if we are smart enough to follow.