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Speaking to the Soul: Welcoming the child

Speaking to the Soul: Welcoming the child

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”              Mark 9:37

In the United States, four children are killed as a result of abuse or neglect every day.

Every 62 seconds a baby is born into extreme poverty.

Even though the USA really is number one in GDP, it is second to last in child poverty rates (ahead of Romania.)

It is not just our own children here in the USA that we don’t welcome. Who can forget the image of Aylan Kurdi, the two-year old Syrian lad whose body washed up on a Turkish Beach last week?

This is not what Jesus had in mind when he instructed us to welcome the little children, yet somehow this is where we are.

Most people find these statistics unacceptable. We accept children as people worthy of care and the best welcome we can offer. It was different in the first century, though. The disciples would not have valued children in the way that we do. Children were a drain on family resources, they didn’t contribute, and they were likely to die. A healthy goat was worth more. That is what made Jesus’ teaching so counter-cultural.

Jesus was not just saying that we should welcome the cherub-faced little children. He was saying that we should welcome the ones that nobody else values. When we welcome those who take more than they give, are weak, uncomprehending, and sometimes difficult, that is when God feels that he is welcome too.

I don’t remember where I learned this, but there’s an exercise I do. It is not difficult, but it has changed the way I see the world and the people in it. The exercise is to try to imagine people as they were when they were children. It is the quickest way I know to let true compassion take root in your heart.

Like with all exercises, sometimes it is easier than it is at other times. Some cases are so difficult that I have to start by imagining people as they might have been  in university and work my way back through high school, junior high, and elementary, until I can finally see them as toddlers or even infants. Other times it’s easier. There might remain an innocence on the face, a look of curiosity, some child-like feature still on the surface. Whether it’s easy or hard, though, it is effective in cultivating compassion.

There is a child in each of us, like it or not. Some people are better than others at caring for that part of themselves, and recognizing it in others. I wonder, though, if our inability to care for the children in our society stems from an inability to welcome the children within ourselves and others?

How can you be more welcoming to the child-like spirit in yourself?

Can you learn to see the beauty and innocence of the child in others?

Linda McMillan lives in Shanghai, China.

Image:  Children clowning around on an IWT boat from Pyay to Mandalay, Irrawaddy River, Myanmar, 2014  Linda McMillan


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John Chilton

“More than one in five American children fall below a relative poverty line, which UNICEF defines as living in a household that earns less than half of the national median.”

The key word here is “relative.” It’s a measure of inequality, not poverty.

Child poverty is far lower in the U.S. than it was 50 years ago measured in absolute terms and accounting for government safety net programs. The big three programs are the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit and the supplemental nutritional program.

President Johnson spoke of not only alleviating poverty, but curing and preventing it. This is where we have failed. Too many children are born into an environment which deprives them of a good neighborhood with good schools, and sets them up for a lifetime of living on the economic periphery because they grow up lacking valued skills.

I really don’t care about inequality. I care about moving the poorest out of poverty into a state where they can proudly support themselves comfortably.

Shirley O'Shea

The fact that the U.S.’s high GDP is not enough to keep our children from being second to last in child poverty rates cannot surprise us. The concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a very small number of people is the root of this. How Christians speak and preach of love, and yet the most vulnerable among us suffer in miserable circumstances, and then Christians claim that suffering builds character, perfects the image of God in us – I say no, overwhelming, long-term suffering produces bitterness and unbelief more than many are prepared to admit. Poor children need more than charity – they need justice. Justice IS love.

Kevin Roberts

Thank you for this article…this is unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous for the U.S. to be second to last in child poverty!
“Dear Jesus open all of our eyes to work to eleviate this problem, not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. Amen”

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