“Look out!” Jesus said, “if you are the kind of people who do anything to discourage little children.”
Having the nieces and nephews around (pictured with their parents - Heather and Jesse - yesterday afternoon) made me remember an old newspaper column I wrote about a similar visit, eight years ago. There were just three of them then, and the oldest was six, the same age her baby sister is today.
The year was 2001. We were staying at Melbourne Beach, over on the Atlantic coast:
"The beach always takes on a fresh perspective through the eyes of small children. Our own children are now teens, but we do have nieces and nephews close by, and they were able to spend some time with us as we vacationed on the sandy Atlantic shore.
"Rebekah took Seth, four years old, for a shell finding walk. Along the way she taught him about dragging his feet to make cool looking tracks - an indispensable skill at that age. 'Aunt ‘Bekah,'
he said with a very serious look on his face, having got the hang of the technique, 'I think my toes must have been made for this.'
"His sister Jordan, a very sophisticated six, commented that this was 'The very best beach day of my whole entire life.'
"The very best beach day for us, though, came a few evenings later, when Rebekah and I took a long walk as the sun was going down, following a school of dolphins who were heading South. I saw something moving in the sand a few yards ahead of us, and we were delighted (having seen eggs being laid last year) to watch the mass birthday of more than one hundred sea-turtles who were hatching at that very moment.
"We tracked the trail of scuttling babies to a slowly erupting mound at the high end of the beach. One by one, tiny, perfectly formed, mini-turtles blindly clawed their way to the surface and scurried in circles before finally settling on the direction of the moon and the beckoning waves.
"We followed them to the edge of the water, encouraging the occasional newborn who found themselves stuck in a deep footprint or an extra big crab hole. They made a comical sight when they finally caught a receding wave and shot like overpowered windup toys into the roaring surf. We must have spent an hour there, witnessing the overwhelming imperative of life.
"And I thought about how emphatic the power of creation is, placed inside even the smallest of creatures. They were irrepressible. My niece and nephews are the same way - curious, open, full of the incredible scope of possibility that life is, ready to take on the world, ready to embrace all that they were created for.
"How I pray that they grow up in a world in which they find all the encouragement and the support that they will need. I don’t worry about their home, because they have remarkably loving and capable parents. But I do worry about the rest of us sometimes, and the kind of world that we are crafting for all our children.
"Look out! Jesus said, if you are the kind of people who do anything to discourage little children.
"We might not all be teachers, or parents of small fry, or even aunts and uncles. But we’re not off the hook, either. My nephew’s toes may have been made for dragging in that sand, and my niece
may have enjoyed her best beach day ever, but let’s also make sure that we give them the kind of world they can continue to grow and shine in - wherever they happen to be."
Love and blessings - DEREK