Like so many others, I spent a lot of time last week trying to process what happened in Charleston. When I heard about the shootings, all I could think was, “Not again. Not again. Not again.” My prayers were quiet, desperate: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Any words I tried to write down felt inadequate, too small to even begin to address what happened. Sometimes I feel ashamed about the world I’ve helped to create for the kids I work with and minister to each week. We let the hate grow too tall. It’s spreading like wildfire, and somehow we still like to pat ourselves on the back when we attempt to put it out with squirt guns.
Yesterday I went to church and spent the morning with some of my favorite kids. They were the same kids I see almost every Sunday—the kids I play with and talk to about Jesus. The same kids whose noses I’ve wiped and bloody knees I’ve cleaned and bandaged (because my job is glamorous like that at times). But yesterday they gave me the most precious gift. They reminded me that all is not lost, because they still have time to do what we have not been able to accomplish yet. They gave me hope.
I don’t have kids yet, so I can’t say that I would even know where to begin when it comes to talking to children about what happened in Charleston, what keeps happening over and over again all over the world. But when I spent time with those kids yesterday, I was reminded of their desire to laugh and play together. I was reminded of their ability to look at other people without judgment and preconceived notions of what is right and normal. I was reminded of their honesty and innocence and fearlessness. I was also reminded of my responsibility to talk to them about love.
I want the kids I work with to know what it means to love people—really love people. I want them to know that they are children of God and that the same God that made them also made the kid in their class whose skin is a different color. He made the kid who struggles to read and the smartest kid in the class. He made the bully and the victim. He made them and he loves them. And he calls us to do the same.
Us grown-ups have a made a big mess of the job God gave us, that much is obvious. But these kids have so much work left to do—they can change the world. If you don’t know how to start talking to your kids about what happened in Charleston, start talking to them about love. Make sure they know they can make a difference. Make sure they know that love wins in the end.
We let the hate grow too tall. Those kids gave me hope that the love can grow even taller.