7 November 2019Matthew 18:1-14
‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.' (vs. 3-5)
Psalm: Psalm 99
I used to work as an Occupational Therapist with special needs children. One boy was called Ben, he was about 6 years old and had cerebral palsy, which mainly affected his legs and feet with some overspill of difficulty with finer movements in his hands.
I used to visit him in school every couple of weeks to work on his fine skills including pencil work and scissors. Ben was a cheerful boy with the usual run of dreadful six-year-old's jokes, which he used to try and direct me away from making him do the work I had for him.
One time I went into school and Ben was very quiet – no chatter, no jokes. I asked what was wrong and he told me that his mum had been upset by something that had happened to him.
Ben had grown up with the children in his class. They had gone to playgroup and pre-school together and were now in Key Stage One together getting ready to become Key Stage Two the next autumn. Ben loved playing with his friends, but one play time they had gathered round him and a boy had informed him that they no longer wanted to be his friend and they called him horrible names. "You’re useless,’ they said. "You’re no friend of ours anymore." They walked away and left Ben standing alone feeling upset. He went home and told his mum and she cried.
At this point, Ben looked and me and said, "It’s not his fault – you see, he’s got a bigger brother who told him what to say."
"How are you now?" I asked. "Fine," he told me. "Mum told me what to say if they did again. When they came up to me and called me names I stood up tall and straight, looked at them and said, ‘It’s not catching!’"
Part of me wanted to laugh and part of me wanted to cry. Until someone older and ‘wiser’ pointed out the differences and gave them rather unpleasant names to say, all of the children had been friends, sharing, laughing, playing and supporting each other. Now, because of that ‘worldly wisdom’, they had hurt each other and their friendship.
It taught me that prejudice it a learned concept rather than a base response. We may be frightened of difference but, like children, we need to see the shared humanity beneath it all and not allow worldly wisdom to detract from what we have in common, because the prejudice hurts and divides whereas the fear can be overcome.
- Over the years what have you had to unlearn as your life experience has grown and developed?
- What or who still makes you feel uneasy – why is that and is there anything you can do to change things?