Word Up Wednesday: Watch Children / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

As promised, I am continuing Word Up Wednesday by featuring reflections written during my Clinical Pastoral Education Internship. The following was written in March 2015. Again, Scripture was added and minor edits made to be shared here on www.reverendmotherrunner.com

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
— Luke 18:6

In my travels around my neighborhood recently, I have noticed many traffic signs on the street that read, “Watch Children.” Traffic signs tell us about traffic rules, hazards, where we are, where we are going, and where services are located. Traffic signs are not suggestions, but rather are rules to obey to promote safety and order on the roads. The shape and color of signs give clues to the type of information that why communicate. If you haven’t noticed them, the “Watch Children” signs are yellow in color and diamond in shape. In general traffic rules and regulations, yellow signs are considered general warnings. Yellow signs are present to make drivers alert, careful, and watchful. Yellow alerts us to proceed with caution. Diamond signs are also warnings, with words and pictures that alert drivers to special road hazards and why we must proceed with extra caution. These “Watch Children” signs are placed to make drivers mindful of the safety of children that may be walking, running, or playing in the area. When I see these signs, I slow down, being careful of the presence of children. But these signs have resonated in my heart and caused me to reflect beyond what they mean for the safety of children. 

Watch children. What if we heeded this sign not simply as a warning to be cautious about traffic, but also as an invitation to live more fully and more alive? Have you ever watched children? How they move in the world? How they connect with others? The simple things they need to be happy? The boldness, persistence and determination they possess? Watching children—and emulating some of their behaviors—may be helpful for the fullness of life and thriving for adults of all ages.

We can watch the playfulness and imagination of children…

Children are naturally playful. At around three months of age, babies begin to smile in joyful response to the smiles of those around them. Toddlers, can find pleasure in playing with almost anything—from manufactured toys to pots and pans and empty toilet paper rolls and cardboard boxes. In fact, if you want a toddler to learn anything, make play a part of it and they are sure to grasp the concept. Elementary school children look forward to recess when they can climb and skip and run and play with their friends. And teenagers, in all of their budding maturity, will light up and become energized at the opportunity to play. Play and imagination brings a sense of vitality and generativity that many adults would benefit from. When the care of life become serious and overwhelming, simple play—from hearty laughter to opening a fresh box of Crayola Crayons with a coloring book—can reenergize us for the tasks and decisions ahead. 

image from www.pexels.com

image from www.pexels.com

We can watch the courage of children…

I am amazed when I watch small children playing on jungle gyms. They approach swings and slides and money bars with a boldness that is inspiring. No matter their little arms cannot reach the first rung of the ladder, they don’t see their limitations, but rather they see themselves celebrating on the top rung. And they try, and try, and try to reach their goals and don’t stop until they’ve made it. Surely, small failures come, but they pick themselves up and keep trying. Surely, frustration comes. But even in their frustration, they either ask for help or find alternate ways of arriving on top. There is a spunk and fearlessness about children that we can learn from. In an adult way, it is asking the question, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” and attempting the feat with audacity and grace. 

We can watch the intimate connections of children…

Children thrive on touch. In addition to proper nutrition, human touch is crucial effects on physical and emotional growth of newborn babies. My toddler, when she sleeps with me, always has some part of her body touching mine. Sometimes it is her foot in my back. Other times it is her head nuzzled under my arms. Most times, she simply has her hand outstretched touching my face. More than physical touch, emotional connection with others is also important to children. Children, unless they have been violated in some way, are some of the friendliest people on the planet. Even shy and timid children are friendly in their own way, making connections based on a shared interest. They may not say hello, but they will smile and show you their favorite toy. To look into a classroom and see a child who is isolated from his or her peers, is to see a child with a face and demeanor of despair. Children live deeply into the truth that no person is an island, and that human beings are created to be in relationship with each other. As adults, we can embrace our interconnectedness through everything from handshakes and hugs to telephone calls to our friends to let them know that we were thinking of them.

In addition to these, I’m sure there are many other beautiful lessons we can learn from the lives of children. Today I invite us heed and obey the signs to “Watch Children” as we journey in this life.

Will you pray with me?

Gracious God, we know that children are a gift from you. We are grateful for the many lessons that we can learn by watching the lives and behavior of children. When we become to serious and rigid, we pray that you would teach us to play like children. When we are timid, we pray that you would grant us the courage of children. When we are isolated from others, we pray that you would give us the intimacy of children. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.