“Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them . . . “
Mark 10: 13
The energy and zeal for life shown in this illustration reminds me that noticing and engaging with children is critical to their growth, physically, spiritually, and emotionally! Everywhere I have turned over the past month has reminded me how important reaching out to children has been in my life. Advertisements for opportunities for children seem to be endless. Social media is filled with promotions for summer camps. In my community, I see yard signs for various VBS events, and the local parks are teeming with organized play. There are many opportunities to inspire and celebrate the children around us.
But I am remembering the words of Jesus in Mark 10:13-16, where I hear a responsibility that I am concerned many have forgotten. Children are to be noticed, encouraged, inspired, and welcomed as beacons of hope in our lives. If more of us rolled out the welcome to celebrate each child and put forth a concerted effort to make them feel seen and known, our world would have more hope.
I have held a great love for children for decades and I am grateful for each one who has been woven into the tapestry of my life. I have been blessed to have had a wide range of connections to children, as the oldest sister, auntie, stepmother, grandmother, and for over 3 decades teaching and leading schools – both public and private.
On a recent trip back to the community where I started my teaching career, I was blessed to share an evening with 6 women with whom I worked for 15 years. In our work, we prayed, planned, and brainstormed together seeking the best ways to make heart connections that could improve the lives of our children – in the present and their future. It reminded me that I was a child that was blessed and inspired by the adults beyond my family and that is why I am still dedicated to “paying it forward” in whatever way is available.
During our conversations that evening, we began to speak about the changes in the world which have impacted children from infancy to college age. The discussion darkened, and our hearts felt weighed down, as stories were shared about the ways our world rushes past children and has added so many “burdens” to their lives far too early. Childhood has been shortened by the hurry of life today. Instead “influencers” on social media hold sway over the ideas and expectations and too many political agendas want to do more programming than development in their minds. We concluded that our work to impact the lives of children is far from finished, even though we no longer go to a classroom each day.
I want to encourage every adult to take up the challenge to look for ways to connect with the children around them. They may be in your family, neighborhood, church community, or workplace. See them! Notice their expressions and need to be seen! Don’t let them be hurried along and feel invisible. Speak encouragement, truth, and hope into their lives. Let’s celebrate them and make them feel known in our busy world. Help them understand how much Jesus longs to know them! Each of us can make a difference and plant seeds of hope in the hearts of children!