My 17-month-old son has adventure and courage in spades, yet when he approaches a step, he gingerly grips the doorframe and lowers himself bit by bit until he feels the floor solid beneath his toes.
If I have hold of his hand, it’s an entirely different picture.
Captain Courageous will launch himself from any height so long as mum’s hand is wrapped around his own. I know it’s just a little thing, but it amazes me how much trust a child has in his or her parents.
When I see that level of trust, it’s a real wakeup call; I have been entrusted with this little life.
And when I see him sleeping in his cot, his face relaxed into sweet vulnerability, I pray so hard that he will be kept safe from all the monsters – not under his bed but lurking in the street or, God forbid, in the homes of people I know.
Last week we celebrated (if that’s the right word) National Child Protection Week. Celebrated probably isn’t the right word when you consider that in the past year 30,000 Australian children have been abused and neglected.
Why does one child receive a loving home while another will never experience that concept?
It’s not a question I can answer.
Children don’t choose their families or the nasty situations that adults place them in. But adults can choose to offer protection to every child that comes into their daily sphere.
Don’t switch off yet folks – this is not just for parents. If you’re a member of a community, then you have a responsibility to look out for all children.
So child protection week is over, all the events and publicity have ceased – but our work continues.
The NAPCAN (National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) campaign of awareness during child protection week this year was beautiful. It drew attention to the need for everyone to be listening to the little people in our communities. Listening and responding.
Not just parents.
Young people, shop keepers, community workers, police, boyfriends, carers, sisters and politicians. The media, uncles, churches, businesses, friends, doctors, teachers, neighbours and grandparents.
Jesus held children in such high regard. When the disciples asked him, “Who is the greatest?” he called a child to his side. I can imagine him wrapping an arm around this child’s shoulders, lifting their chin with a finger and looking into their eyes as he replied:
“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Imagine the beaming smile of that child being shown such affection.
Jesus continued, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)
Jesus always had time for children, and one of the reminders NAPCAN has put out there this year is to be a good listener.
I know how tricky that is when life is invariably a cacophony of little voices. Mum can I have a biscuit, mum can I have a friend over, mum can you do my shoelaces up, mum, mum, MUM!
That’s why it’s important that we all keep our ears flapping. That we all take on board the responsibility to care for children, to listen out for their needs, something amiss, something not quite right.
They are trusting us to do as much.
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As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column, Monday September 10.