Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. (Psalm 127:3)
Childhood memories can be sad. They talk about “the good old days,” but when I was a kid, emotional and even physical abuse was the parents’ business. I knew kids who lived behind us who came to school with bruises regularly. I am unaware of teachers or any other adults “noticing.” If they did, and said anything to authorities, it certainly didn’t make a difference. But sadly, that abuse isn’t the one that still haunts me.
Over 46 years ago – and I still remember the boy’s name and face like it was yesterday – Jim and his family lived across the street and three houses down on the left. The boy was my age, but he was small for his age. Jim was an extremely homely boy. Teachers and kids treated him like he was “slow.” Some of us tried to be nice to him, but he was so disturbed and distrustful; he would verbally and even physically attack people who tried to be nice to him. At eleven years old, we just didn’t know how to respond.
What haunts me wasn’t the way teachers and kids treated him, but the way his parents responded to Jim. They ignored him. His response was to cry, scream, and even growl. The more he did it, they more they ignored him. Jim had a little brother, who was as cute as a button. Jim’s parents doted on the younger boy. To the side of their place, Jim’s father got permission to build a children’s playground using large tractor wheels. The paper came and did a story. Mom, Dad, and little brother sat on the wheels and took a beautiful “family” picture together. I saw Jim looking out the picture window, alone, crying.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Now that I am a grandpa, I think back on child abuse with such agony. Sadly, child abuse still happens, but at least the rest of society doesn’t turn a blind eye as easily today. Adults often mistakenly believe the children in their care are theirs to do with as they like. No, every child is God’s child. We “parents” are the guardians of God’s children. Every one of God’s children deserves to grow, learn, and live without fear. Let that be our prayer today.