“The soul is healed by being with children.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I have been thinking very much about children lately since the Ferguson case became a big deal. I want to preface this by saying that I am not writing this blog because I disagree with the people protesting the decisions made in these grand jury cases. Whenever human beings are killed, it is cause for sadness and concern and even at times righteous outrage. The reason I am writing this blog is because it is frustrating and deeply angering to me that we can talk about, riot, and protest this injustice for days on end when we are not rioting every day for the greatest injustice happening on the face of the planet, an injustice which will continue to happen unless we fight because the victims of this injustice have no way to fight for themselves.

“Abortion and racism are both symptoms of a fundamental human error. The error is thinking that when someone stands in the way of our wants, we can justify getting that person out of our lives. Abortion and racism stem from the same poisonous root, selfishness. Of course, to get someone out of our way, we have to come up with rationales for doing so. We create the deceptions that the other person is less important, less worthy, less human. These pretenses help us feel a bit better about discriminating against someone because of his skin color or gestational age, but they’re still lies, and our actions are still wrong. The truth is that we are all humans belonging to only one race. Racial reconciliation can only mean that we reconcile to the truth that we are all one race of human beings created equal. Even though we have ethnic distinctions, those distinctions do not separate us from the human race any more than do our stage of development or state of physical dependency. We are all fully human. When we face this truth, there is no justification for treating those who look different than us as lesser beings. If we simply treat other people the way we’d like to be treated, racism, abortion, and other forms of inhumanity will be things of the past. The fight against abortion is a new frontier in the civil rights movement.” – Dr. Alveda King

I’m convinced the best way we can start to change the world is by changing our attitude about Life. I don’t mean how we view our individual life, but rather how we view the phenomenon of Life Itself. How can we expect a free and just society when we think the killing of one type of human being (an unarmed minority) is wrong, but myriad other types of killing are not wrong? Why do expect someone to have respect for the life of a person of color or for a homosexual person or for a woman, when we as a society have no respect for the life of the child inside of a woman’s womb or for the person who has Down’s syndrome or for the prisoner now on death row because he raped and murdered young girls? We have no problem with other people being killed when it’s in the name of Vengeance or Progress or Convenience or Not Perpetuating the Cycle of Poverty, so tell me how we aren’t then hypocrites when we decry the murder of an unarmed young man in the name of All Lives Mattering?

Christ was such a radical person not because He came to tell us to love the vulnerable, those oppressed and misused by society, but because he came to tell us to love all people – that doesn’t mean just the oppressed or the murdered or the wrongly despised; it means the ones doing the oppressing and the murdering and the wrongful despising. Jesus came to show us the flaw in our thinking that we can love the prostitute without loving the pimp, love the unborn without loving the abortionist, love the dead unarmed young black man without loving the scared, power hungry white cop. It is no more right to kill a person because of the color of his or her skin, sexual orientation, or religious denomination than it is to kill a person because of the point at which he or she is in his or her development or because his or her added economic burden might bring strife to a mother. We can’t expect a society ever to be just which proclaims a certain kind of person has a right to live and another does not.

And I believe strongly that this change in attitude about life can come about by necessity only first and foremost with a change in how we view not only the unborn child, but all children – because who in our society and in any society is more vulnerable than the child?

Why do you think Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to such as these when talking about children?

“Les grandes personnes ne comprennent jamais rien toutes seules, et c’est fatigant, pour les enfants, de toujours et toujours leur donner des explications.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “Le petit prince” (“Grown-ups never understand anything on their own, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

There’s a Catholic mission in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala that builds brick oven stoves for impoverished families in need of them (the vast majority of families fall into this category). I’ve been to visit and help out at the mission a couple of times. One time I followed along Julio and a couple of the other men (who are natives employed by the mission to build these stoves) to a more distant village. It was rumored that this village was full of children, so I was eager to tag along. We unloaded when we got to the family’s house, and not even minutes after, all the children in the village flooded the yard, wanting to play with us.

When we sat down in a circle for lunch, the young mother of the family sent the youngest daughter off with a couple of coins to get herself a mini bag of chips. She came back, smiling from ear to ear, sat down next to me and my friend, Sarah, and turned to our friend, Derek, to ask him if he could open the bag for her. As soon as he had opened it and handed the bag back to her, she held out a chip to Derek and then to Sarah and then to me and then finally took her first bite. She and her two siblings sleep in one room on one bed with her parents. They play in the pile of concrete dust next to their house. They go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground in the middle of the yard enclosed solely by a garbage bag wrapped around three sticks in teepee formation. They wash their clothes in a sink outside the bedroom. Her mini bag of chips was half the size of our single chip bags, and she gave three of those precious chips away to three people she had met that morning before she even took one for herself.

Yesterday morning I headed over to Cedartown, GA with my family and some other volunteers to organize and dispense Christmas gifts which had been donated for more than 200 families unable to provide gifts for their children this year. One woman came over to the gifts my father and I were in charge of with her daughter and husband. The husband picked up the box, as the mother and daughter each grabbed one side of the little pink bike donated for her. My father leaned over and said in Spanish to the mother that he hoped she would have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new beginning of the year. Tears immediately began streaming from her face as she said, “I didn’t have money to buy her anything this year. Thank you so much.” Her daughter clutched onto her leg, smiling up at her beautiful mother. She led her daughter over to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and knelt down with her in gratitude. Tears continued to flow down her cheeks, while her daughter hugged her ’round the neck, just gazing into her face, smiling with pure love and admiration. She didn’t care that the gifts that would be coming to her from her parents weren’t paid for by their money; all she saw was the humility, gratitude, and love in the gesture, as she smiled up at the woman who loved her enough to share that gratitude in public.

It’s no wonder at all to me why when the disciples rebuked him for reaching out to the most vulnerable in his society, Christ called out, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Luke 18:16-17

Thanks be to God for the children who change our hearts!

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2 thoughts on ““The soul is healed by being with children.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  1. You are an amazing woman Maria — thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful reflections. Hope all is well and blessings to your family this Advent Season!

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