“I remember the day Sally was baptized.”
“I’ve known Susie since she was a baby.”
“Billy, I can’t believe how quickly you’ve grown!”
As long-standing members of a church, many of us have stories of the children in the community and how they have grown over the years. Handfuls of anecdotal stories that makes us smile and happy to share with a now easy-to-embarrass teenager. They tell our children that we see them, that we have seen them grow and that is valuable. Let’s flip the coin for a moment, shall we? How many children know you? How many of the children of your community have stories about you and how you have shaped them? Are you known by the children of your church family?
Building relationships with kids can be challenging. Ask any parent. How can you do it doing coffee hour? There always seems to be something that “needs” to be discussed with someone. Children require attention; intentional attention. That can be exhausting. Or maybe not. The world through a child’s eyes is boundless and fascinating. It is optimistic and full of opportunity. It is many things that we all tend to lose over the years. We see the world through wiser, but all more cynical eyes. We see opportunity as another thing we cannot possibly put on our already full plate. We have been hurt and the risk before we see the possibility. We change through experience and become more prudent. Yet don’t we all wax nostalgic from time to time? Learning and knowing all too well that youth is wasted on the young? Does our society not revolve around youth; the yearning for it?
We can do things to maintain youthfulness, from exercise and diet to plastic surgery. How do we tend to a youthful spirit? How often do we care for that? Allow me to suggest a way: become known by a child. There is little as live-giving and energizing (after some initial exhaustion) than working with children. They remind us of the very best parts of ourselves. We are kinder to children than we are with most people. We are more patient, forgiving, and engaged, little more like Jesus when we make time for children.
Did you have an adult who made a difference in your life when you were a child? Are you that person for a child today? “My child has too many people who love them” said no one, ever. I invite you to allow a child to nurture the best parts of you. How? Through intentional engagement with our kids at St. Bart’s. Can you volunteer in Sunday School four times a year? Maybe more? Can you lend a hand at Vacation Bible School? Ask yourself what you can do. The greatest gift you can give a child is the gift of your presence. It just may be the gift you give yourself.