I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)
Wouldn’t it be great to view the burdens of this world through the innocent eyes of a child every now and then? Sometimes a vastly complex problem can be successfully addressed with a childlike solution.
While cruising around town the other day with my very curious five year old in the backseat, I indulged myself in a little afternoon NPR. I try to be open and honest with my son, but he’s much too young to be exposed to the ugliest ways in which human beings treat each other. So I was banking on him not paying much attention to the gentle tones of a high-brow dialogue on race relations wafting through the vehicle. Of course, as any parent knows, that is when you can most count on a child to tune in.
“Mommy, what is racism?”
Oh, OK. This is going to be one of those moments. One where your mind races through all of the possible answers, seeking the one that will result in a wonderful teaching moment, and discarding those which might spiral into a confusing pit of unsatisfied curiosity. My experience is that short sentences and simple wording are generally the key, so I took my best shot. “It’s when people are mean to each other because of the color of their skin. That’s really stupid, isn’t it?”
Now, Tyler’s best friend is African-American, but we’ve never really discussed race before. To him, the color of your skin is no different than hair color, and I have revelled in that innocent perspective.
I wasn’t sure if anything was clicking, so I continued “There are lots of different colors of skin. Can you think of anyone you know who has a different skin color?”
He gave it some thought, but he didn’t get there.
“What about brown skin? Do we know anyone with brown skin?”
A light bulb went off. “Oh yeah! Donovan!” he replied enthusiastically.
“We’ll never be mean to anyone because they’re different from us, will we?”
He agreed emphatically, and after a quiet, reflective moment had passed, he got excited again. “Oh Mommy, I know how we can stop people from being mean because of their skin color! We can TEACH THEM ABOUT GOD!”
One of those moments, indeed. Never before have my eyes so instantly brimmed with tears. I was touched not only by my sweet little boy and his big heart for God, but for the beauty in his revelation. In response to all of the hatred and division that is gripping our country right now, most of us tend to wring our hands and wonder, “What can be done? What will happen?” I myself have felt helplessness and anxiety at the state or our nation. Yet the truth Tyler so aptly revealed is simple, but mighty: teach your neighbor about God, and He will take care of the rest.
In most parenting moments, I’m the teacher, but in the most poignant lessons, I find myself the student.