So...yesterday, Conner - our unbelievably brilliant and compassionate 7 year old - saw a commercial about the continuing devastation in Japan. He came running up to Rachel screaming, “Mom! Mom! There’s tsunamis and earthquakes in Japan and they say we need to help them! I NEED TO HELP THEM!”
Rachel explained that Japan is a very long way away and maybe the best way we can help them is by sending money to a group of people that are already there doing what they can.
“Oh, money. I don’t have any money.”
Rachel asked him, “Well, how do you get money?” (which, coincidentally, happens to be a question she and I ask each other all the time!)
He replied, “Well, I work for it.”
“Okay, so what if you worked to make cookies or something to sell and then you could give that money to the people in Japan?”
He thought for a moment and then excitedly responded, “I could make caramel apples.”
After a little thinking and talking with the wise BooBoo (Rachel’s mom) it was decided that caramel apples may not be the best option, but fudge would be good.
That afternoon, after I got filled in on the situation, I asked Conner, “So what’s up with Japan and giving them money?”
“Dad, its terrible there are earthquakes and tsunamis and Japan is in big trouble...it could be completely destroyed! That would be awful...a whole country and all its people gone forever! The world would have one less country...Dad, Japan could become extinct...just like Atlantis! We have to do something!”
He was so upset - it made me a little sad and so very proud to see my son not only deeply concerned about the suffering of others, but equally convinced that it was HIS responsibility to do something about it. So I asked him. “Why do you care? Why should you do something?” The next words out of his mouth were not the words of a child, they were the words of a prophet.
He looked at me, very serious as though I’d just asked him the dumbest question ever: “Because if God were here, he would do something.”
When I composed myself enough to answer I simply said, “You’re right. And I think He’s going to.”
Perhaps this is precisely why Jesus told us we must become like little children if we wish to inherit the Kingdom. Seven year-olds haven't learned that they can't really do anything about suffering. They don't know that the proper response is to shake our head and move on to the next channel. They don't realize that Japan's problems aren't our problems.
In fairness, many people have given both their time and their money to this disaster and to recent ones. We witnessed first hand the generosity and compassion of people from all over the country during the aftermath of Katrina. Our small congregation in Mandeville housed between 20 and 200 out of town volunteers every day for an entire year. So, I don't want to take away from that.
But we've all experienced the desensitizing effect of seeing suffering on the news everyday. We've all, myself included, changed the channel because we didn't want to hear about it. Sometimes we move on because we feel overwhelmed at the enormity of the problems...sometimes we just don't feel anything.
I confess, there have been more than a few times when I've seen images of starving children in Africa and it seemed too far away, to un-real to even register. My son's reaction yesterday became the finger of the prophet Nathan accusing me of being the man who stole the poor shepherd's lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
Lord, forgive me for allowing my heart to grow calloused to the suffering of others, whether they are near or far. Create in me a clean heart, the heart of a child and the heart of a father. Give me eyes to see suffering as you do. Not only something to be mourned, but something to be entered into and reconciled.