Children: The Genesis of Hope

Posted: January 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

Children: The Genesis of Hope

A woman living in the slum area of a large city
was asked by a news reporter what hope she has, living as she must.
She points to her children: “They are my hope,” she says. (Alves 2011)

Last week we explored the love that the Wedding story raised and we argued that the marriage relationship is one that can be applied across all relationships. A love that is wholistic and goes the extra mile. Today our Luke reading introduces us to a young Jesus who punches above his weight. He is wise beyond his years and is given the task not only of handling the precious scrolls but also of interpreting them. This raises ideas of intellectual growth and of education. Given that our nation’s children are soon to return to school for the year its appropriate to spend time on them.

One of the best ways of doing this would have been to have a discussion between teachers, parents and pupils because experience is probably the best indicator of where things are at. We can all agree that education is important: be it for adults or children and that there is also much we could learn from a closer observation of and listening to children. A child explores the world with true wonder long before he or she understands what the adults mean by ‘holy’. It seems that a child does not need to be told in solemn pious tones that ‘only God can make a tree’ before discovering the God-given thrill of climbing it, feeling its rough bark against her hands and face, sensing the joy of a new experience. Out of such experiences in the life of a child comes a quickened sense of self-worth, which has important ramifications for all relationships with other persons.

Perhaps this is why the peasant sage called Jesus/Yeshu’a was also so affirming of children. It is also perhaps the reason why the office of the Children’s Commissioner completed a study in 2015 when they asked a number of primary school children what changes are needed to the Education Act 1989. They asked the children a number of questions about what education should be about and at the core of the answers they got was that it should prepare children for the future and equip them with skills and knowledge they need to thrive as adults. Future preparedness was not only defined in terms of employment, but also in terms of gaining skills, fulfilling potential, and learning to learn.

Before we look at what the responses were I want to suggest that the questions asked have a very strong bearing on what the answers will be and I think this is borne out by this study. While it might be pedantic it is a claim that when asked the question; What should the goals for education be? One already has the assumption that there are such things as goals and they are indicative of a linear and measurable process of change.

When asked what the goals of education should be the students replied

 

  • To help students in the best way to learn and to help them achieve their goals and dreams.”
  • “[Education is] important for your brain so you can learn in the future.”
  • “[Education] helps prepare for the future and for life situations, and you get a better chance of getting a job. And it helps you to be confident and avoid conflict.”
  • “To teach children life skills and knowledge that they can use for life.”
  • “So you can get a job and be able to succeed in life.”
  • “To turn the students into young people who can take over.”

 

The answers are interesting in that the second part of he answers is the most informative. Affirm and value dreams, continue to understand the evolving future, be confident in life and avoid conflict, learning has to be able to be applied to real life, it has to enhance human life and it has to empower people to take responsibility for life.

While the answers suggest that any student-centred purpose statement for the Education Act needs to be sufficiently holistic they reduced their learning to the answers being oriented toward “achievement.” They admitted that achievement was not a theme that emerged strongly from the students’ responses, but it was not inconsistent with their views, as long as achievement is defined widely enough to encapsulate their diverse expectations. To address this they asked the students to define what “achievement” meant to them. It was clear that they all aspire to achieve and succeed, but this is not defined in terms of attaining particular qualifications or standards. Rather, the most common thread in the children’s responses defined achievement in terms of setting and completing of goals. It was generally expressed as an intrinsic value, rather than something externally bestowed, and something which produces a state of happiness or satisfaction.

When asked what achievement meant the students replied as follows:

 

 

  • “[Achievement is] when you’re really happy because you were determined to do something, and you reach it. And then you set another goal and work hard.”
  • “It means knowing you can do whatever you want. You know it inside even if others don’t know it.”
  • “To complete something that makes me happy to the best of my abilities.”
  • “The completion of doing something well.”
  •  

Again it is interesting that there is a desire towards a process of integrity, of application to task, and to dealing with reality constructively. It is also clear that there is a need to value and honour instinct and imagination and experience. It is also clear that there is value the self. The commission concluded that there is a need for a wide definition of achievement that incorporates concepts of wellbeing, goal-setting, and fulfilment of individual potential. And that national education priorities should reflect what children themselves want from the education system.

So in the spirit of this humble journey of seeking the act in responsible ways to the lives and needs of children I want to invite you to come on a journey of re-imagination. It’s a journey I owe much to Rex Hunt an Australian Colleague and to some people of his congregation and with a little modification for our use here it is…..

We have heard from the story of creation in Genesis Chapter 1 and remembering that story, we now re-imagine it not as a mythical story of the creation of the world, but as a mythical story of the creation of children.

In a beginning…

At the start of every life, an environment must be created favourable to life. Otherwise a child’s surroundings would have no form or shape and would be empty and unoccupied.

So we who know the sights, sounds and dangers of inadequacy and excess, must move over the face of such a world to prepare it for a living child. We must seek the wellbeing of the child and the world.

And G-o-d said: ‘Let there be light…’


All through their life, children will be faced with a mixture of light and darkness. The child comes from the darkness of the mother’s body into the world where the light hurts its eyes. But light is good for the baby and all children must have lots of it all their life.

  • We must see to it that the lights are turned on so the child’s life will not be lived in the shadows of a darkened world. We must also ensure the benefits of the darkness in its contribution to light.

And G-o-d said: ‘Let their be a dome…’

A child must have support when born, just as the planets must be supported in the sky. And even though a child’s prenatal experience in the mother is a water event, the actual birth sets the child upon the solid earth.

  • This earth, its water and its atmosphere will be the child’s home as long as the child lives. And it is here, on earth, that the child must learn to live just as other forms of life
    live on the earth and in the sea. Because this earth is the only one we have.

And G-o-d said: ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation…’

It is important a child be provided with a total environment favourable to healthy development. This means green grass, plants, trees, and all kinds of fruit, for healthy nourishment.

A child’s life cannot mature properly where the world of rivers, lakes and bush lands have been overcome by asphalt and brick, let alone polluted streams and poisoned foods.

  • A total environment must be given every child with nature’s surroundings at their finest and best.

And G-o-d said: ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures…

Every child needs to know animals, what their kind is, and put a name on each, as though each were the value of a person. And the child will have a ‘reverence for life’ – life of all kinds for this is a part of the world of nature and part of their own nature.

  • We will need to relearn so we can teach that the reverence for life makes no distinction
    between more precious and less precious lives.

And G-o-d said: ‘Let us make humankind in our image…

A person is not ‘made’ all at once but is ‘grown’ from a baby. Each child is born with a creative potential which can only become known as the child develops talents and abilities. And while this earth and everything in it is the child’s domain, each child must see to it that the balance of nature is maintained; food is provided for all earth’s people,
and life be made better for all living creatures.

  • We must see to it that all children are given this birthright and this heritage – to be able to live life fully, and to develop their capabilities to the fullest, ever mindful of the responsibilities, since we all walk this earth – its future in our hands.

The early stages of life are seldom entirely outgrown. Rather, they become the platforms on which further stages of development are built. They must be supplemented by overlays of new levels of information that will shape the patterns of life. So what this day celebrates is indeed important work!

Let us count it a privilege to walk with our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews. et us offer to shape their beliefs. But always allow our beliefs to be reshaped by them.

The wise among us call that wisdom. And let us enable our children to wonder…
“We are collections of long-nurtured solutions that have worked. It took a long time and a lot of editing to make every one of our molecules. As offspring of such a long streak of inspiring successes, let’s allow ourselves [and our children and grand children] just a brief, momentary, ‘Yeaaaay!’ (Fleischman 2013:255)

Rex offers a poem to finish with.

It is called:                               “A Short But True Story of You”.

You are made of star-stuff.
You are related to every other living thing on Earth.

You breathe out a gas that gives life to plants,
and plants breathe out a gas that gives life to you.

You are part of a wonderful web of life on a planet spinning in space.
When you die, someday, the elements of your body
will become a part of clouds and crystals,
seas and new living things.

You can think and wonder, love and learn.
You have the gift of life. (Anderson & Brotman 2004)

Let us remember all children and commit ourselves to
their growth and safety,
their health and education,
their uniqueness and
their unfolding beauty.

Amen.

Notes:
Alves, R. Tomorrow’s Child: Imagination, Creativity, and the Rebirth of Culture. Eugene. Wipf & Stock, 2011.
Anderson, L. & C. Brotman. Kid’s Book of Awesome Stuff. Biddeford. Brotman Marsh-Field Curriculums, 2004.
Fleischman, P. R. Wonder: When and Why the World Appears Radiant. Amherst. Small Batch Books, 2013.
Gibran, K. The Prophet. London. Heinemann, 1926/1969.

rexae74@gmail.com

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