Feeling, thinking like a kid again

I’m retired. I’m watching movies and clouds.

I’m retired.

I’m watching movies and clouds.

I’m running along the river, listening to wind, baking bread and taking the occasional nap.

I’m told that I’m a kid again. I feel it.

True, we are no longer kids.

We are big people now.

We weren’t born yesterday you know.

We’re from Missouri. All grown up, we are.

We were with Saint Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians, “When I was a child, my speech and feeling and thinking were those of a child; now that I am a man, I have no more use for childish ways.”

Been there. Done that.

But we remember those halcyon days of childhood and the innocence we lost without ever intending to lose it.

We remember the embryonic world of Mother May I, Simon Says and Hide-and-Go-Seek.

We remember when anything and everything was possible in our imagination; where the princess was sure to be rescued from her tower and the evil dragon slain; where if you could hold a hockey stick you could score the overtime winning goal in the seventh game and hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Who was that person?

The one who used the sharp edge of a stone to etch hop scotch lines on the sidewalk; the one who was always late for supper because they daydreamed a bit too long; the one who studied the grains of sand in the palm of their hand, smelled the west wind and tasted the rain.

Or better still, where is that forgotten or neglected soul? Not far really.

When you have the leisure and the inclination to watch the sky or hear the breeze or study the sand, you know that even though the knees crack when you stand up and your back goes out more than you do, in a sense you were born yesterday. Or almost yesterday.

We are all children.

So why must little children suffer so?

Babies shaken. Toddlers pummeled. Minors raped for pornography. School buses bombed.

It’s horrific.

I wrote last week about the capital punishment Jesus said would be merciful for anyone who would cause a little one to stumble.

We may not be guilty of using or abusing a child, and yet we are still citizens of a planet in which a third of all children suffer from malnutrition before the age of five; one quarter are not immunized from disease; one in five can’t go to school and, as former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, far too many “have seen violence that no children should ever see.”

Jesus had a soft spot for kids.

It was not only affection for them but the perception that they are a paradigm of paradise.

If there’s a heaven, the ones most likely to get there are those who would welcome it with arms wide open.

As my friend Fred Buechner wrote, “They are people who, like children, are so relatively unburdened by preconceptions that if somebody says there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they are perfectly willing to go take a look for themselves.”

If we ever hope to get into heaven, said Jesus, then we must be more like that person than the one we are now; the one who only prays when they can pray well; the one who can love but steps back from loving and looks at love the way you might look at a painting in an art gallery.

Our grown up voice says that we’re too old, too set in our ways, too cynical and corrupted by a cruel world to ever be that childlike person again.

Nonsense.

You don’t have to retire to find your old true self. A vacation could do it.

Or just lie on the ground on a summer afternoon and look up.

Or pay attention to the healing innocence of a child as they strip away the barnacles that cling to the hull of our sophistication and teach us to look for a pot of gold and find our way through pearly gates.

Rev. Bob Ripley, author and syndicated columnist, is the Senior Minister of Metropolitan United Church in London, Ontario.

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