Thursday, June 2, 2011


I heard the following story over a year ago and it continues to speak to me. It’s a true story, and I believe it can be a reminder to check the way we respond to the little ones who live around us.

Five-year-old, Madison (name changed) was very excited about starting kindergarten.

The big day arrived and Madison was looking forward to riding the school bus with the other neighborhood children. Her mother, Angela walked Madison to the bus stop. It was a joyous scene. Children were playing on the sidewalk and moms were chatting with other moms. Everyone was looking forward to catching the first glimpse of the big yellow bus as it rounded the corner.

“I see the bus – it’s coming,” someone finally yelled out. Immediately cheers went up and children scrambled to pick up backpacks and get in line to climb the giant steps of the bus. Angela kissed her daughter goodbye, waited to see Madison wave from her window seat and then returned home.

Later in the day, Madison came home on the school bus. Her mom was eagerly waiting for her at the bus stop. “Hi, honey, how was your first day of school?” Madison seemed quiet and not open to continuing the conversation. Perhaps Madison is just tired, Angela thought – after all - it was her first day of school and she got up extra early.

One day, though, early in the school year, Madison came home a lot quieter than usual. Angela picked up on her child’s mood and began to ask more detailed questions about her school day. Finally, after what seemed like “pulling teeth,” her daughter responded, “Mommy, you forgot to pack my snack today and we are supposed to bring one everyday.”
“Oh honey, I am so sorry! That was my fault. I totally forgot about your snack. I’ll make sure I pack it tomorrow. And if it would help you feel better, we’ll check each day to make sure your snack is packed.” Madison nodded; however, she still seemed sad and reserved.

“Honey,” Angela continued, “What happened today when you told the teacher you forgot your snack?”
Madison was quiet for a moment; her eyes downcast, “She told me to go and sit on the reading rug while the rest of the class ate their snack.”

“So, you didn’t have anything to eat at all?”

“No,” came her meek reply. “I just sat on the rug.”

Shame was the undertone in her response.

My immediate response to that scene was to wonder why the teacher didn’t have some spare snacks on hand? Or why didn’t she ask if any of the students would like to share their snack with Madison and provide a wonderful lesson on sharing? Now, I want to be quick to add that I don’t believe Madison’s teacher purposefully sought to cause Madison shame. Her reasoning must have been justified to her. But I do wonder how many times I have responded to a child without really thinking through what I’m communicating and it ends up crushing that child’s spirit and producing shame?

This story helps me to remember that children are little human beings. They are important and extemely valuable. I admit that there have been times as a teacher’s aid where I found a child a little more difficult for me to like. It was easy to look down on that child. Or, the times I’ve been in a store and heard a child acting out – I can, without thinking, look down on that child. It is at those times that I have to ask the Lord to help me not to even think shaming thoughts about that child. (It’s easy to go there:“What’s a matter with that whiney kid? She’s disturbing everyone in the store. Glad she’s not my out-of-control child.”)

I love the way Scripture captures a few scenes with Jesus and children. His love for them is very obvious. Catch this from Mark 10:16: ”Then He, Jesus, took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Can’t you just picture this? Imagine your child, or a child you know, being gathered up into His arms and then Jesus placing his hands on their heads to bless them. To bless them – not to shame them.

There is another visual of Jesus with a child that is very sobering to me (Matthew 18:10.) It speaks to my heart and the way I treat children:
“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in Heaven their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father.”

Wow, if I look down on a child I am being a shame giver. God takes their value very seriously. You know, I think we may even have their angel watching us as we interact with a child! Now there’s a motive for accountability to not look down on little ones. You have an angel watching you!

Recently, I followed up with Angela as Madison had moved on to first grade. The good news is she’s thriving, more talkative about her school day and does not want to miss a day of school.

I want to remember, though, that our treatment of children can make them feel fearful or secure. We do have authority over these little ones and I pray we use that authority wisely – laced with patient grace.