When we lived in Japan I served as the Principal of a church-related Preschool/Kindergarten. Every day I would go to work and be greeted by 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds with huge smiles on their faces. Most mornings I first saw them as they arrived because I stood out at the front gate to welcome them in. It didn’t matter how tired I was or what kind of mood I was in, when I saw those children I couldn’t help but smile and be energized.
I thought of this a few weeks ago when we visited the YWCA-run preschool in a Palestinian refugee camp. The person who was showing us around told us that she sometimes visits the preschool just so she will feel better. No matter what she had to deal with in her work at the YWCA or what was going on that day in the refugee camp, she always knew that she could come to the preschool and be greeted with smiles and hugs and song.
I could SO relate!
But, what is it about children that make them so full of joy even in the midst of trying circumstances? And, what should we be learning from them? What should we take from their joy in life that will help us in our own journey? Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said we need to become like a child if we want to enter heaven.
(And, just for the record, I am very aware that even children get tired and aren’t always willing to be joyful so by asking us to consider what it means to be like a child I’m not offering rationale or giving permission for tantrums!)
Children are able to see the world with an innocence that some of us have lost. They respond to a smile and they are eager to share a toy with anyone who asks. One of my favorite shows is Master Chef, Jr. I love this show not just because these young people have skills in the kitchen that I only dream of having some day. I love it because even though they are competing with one another in a very stressful competition, they support each other and offer hugs if one person is having trouble in the kitchen. Sometimes they stop what they are doing, despite the pressure of the clock, and come over to give an ingredient to another or lend a hand as needed.
What a joy to live life in such a way that despite the pressures or the pain or the uncertainty, there is joy and love and grace in our hearts. What would it look like for all of us to live our lives with joy and laughter? Wouldn’t this offer us a window of hope and promise in the serious and sometimes all-consuming work we do?
But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:14-16)