Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. ~ Matthew 19:14
Sometimes a small mother bird lands quietly on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, “Come and see my brood of chicks.” I thank her for the invitation but tell her I have other plans. My response befuddles her, but the mama bird returns in a few days and says again, “Come see my babies. They’re so cute.” The bird is persistent, so I acquiesce.
A few weeks back, I walked into Mancos Elementary School, Home of the Little Jays. Moving through the familiar halls adorned with portraits of gap-toothed kids made with construction paper, I couldn’t help but think of our children—Andie and Ro—roaming up and down these corridors many years ago. Their second-grade teacher, Mrs. Epps, is now the principal. There’s a new cafeteria with bright walls and seats.
I find Mama Bird out back chirping away to her 1st grade chicks. Danny is doing somersaults in the snow. Leslie is making a snow angel. A bug on Billie’s glove mesmerizes her. “Line up everybody. Time for class,” Mama Bird yells and then she blows her whistle three times in case they didn’t hear her voice. “I can’t believe you use a whistle. I didn’t even use a whistle when I coached football,” I say. “Oh, I love my whistle,” and to prove her point she blows it long and loud three more times.
While Mama Bird gives instructions, I notice one burly boy looking at me. He steps out of line, approaches me, stands beneath me, sizes me up, and asks, “Are you color blind?” “What?” I ask. “Are you color blind?” he asks innocently.
“That’s a very odd question to ask someone when you first meet them,” I say. The little boy shrugs his shoulders as if to say, “Why not?” “Why would you ask that?” “I don’t know,” he says and walks back into line. He points at his coat and yells, “What color is my coat?” “Blue,” I say.
Tess overhears us, “What color is my hat?” “Pink.” Mike asks, “What color are my snow pants?” “Purple, I think. I’m not real sure.” Betty chirps, “What about my coat and my gloves?” “What color are my eyes?” “What color are my socks?”
“What’s going on?” I think to myself. I look at Mama Bird, their first-grade teacher, also known as Mrs. Paschal, and I raise the palms of my hands up. “What’s this all about?” I ask. “Well, I wanted them to know something about you before you came in, so I told them you were color blind.”
The chorus continues. “What color is my hair?” “What color is my zipper?” The chicks are on a roll.
“O.K., I am color blind, but I can still see some colors,” I say. They stop for a moment and think about that. Little Lynn breaks the brief silence, “O.K. What color is my coat?” “Class let’s go in,” says Mrs. Paschal.
Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs,” (Matthew 19:14). What does it mean to be child-like? Is it possible?
Do we remember our days of child-like wonder when we would lie in the summer grass and watch the clouds pass overhead like sea-going ships? Do we remember days full of passion, curiosity, wonder, and grace?
Michael Yaconelli writes, “There is deep within all of us, a voice. A voice of wonder and amazement, the voice of the Spirit which has always been speaking to us, even before we were born.”
“We cannot remain children. Childhood is naturally outgrown, and adulthood brings with it a bewildering complexity in life in general,” comments Father Ron Rolheiser. “Our hearts are no longer as they were in the beginning.” Life in all its beauty and grit wounds us. We get stuck in the mud, and we can’t see the blue skies overhead.
Is it possible for us to live in child-like wonder and awe? Can we live in a state of mystery, curiosity, and wild abandon? Can we move beyond the things that have wounded us and hardened our souls? Can we forgive and let go?
The voice of wonder and joy never leaves us; maybe it just gets buried under the chaos. We have our adult responsibilities and challenges, but we can slow down, smell the roses, and listen to the melodies of the birds.
Last Tuesday, I went to volunteer with Jennifer’s first grade class again. They were once more out playing in the snow–making snow angels, playing tag, and climbing the jungle gym. Life doesn’t get much better. They know longer ask if I’m color blind. We have that figured out. Thank God.
As I was walking down the hall with all the little birds chirping away, one little girl looked up at me and said, “You’re more balder today than last week.” She said this without malice or motive, just an observation. “Well, thank you for letting me know,” I replied. “You’re welcome,” she said, “and your hair is growing out white.” “Thank you again.”
Children are simple, honest, and direct. And they love.
May we rekindle our childlike spirit, be still, listen to the voice of wonder and awe within us, and may we enter the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
Blessings and peace,