Playing With Children

Jana and I were wanting to bolster our savings. Jana is the high school theater teacher for Abilene Christian Schools, and she heard that on the elementary side of the school they were needing people to do after school care. Watching the children from 3:30, when school lets out, to 5:30. A lot of parents can't leave work at 3:30 to pick up their kids, so their children stay in after school care until they get out of work.

Jana suggested that she could take that job this semester to make a little extra money. I didn't think it was fair that Jana should do this by herself, so I said I'd do it with her. So we've split the job. I go help watch the kids on Tuesday and Friday. Jana works Wednesday and Thursday.

I had forgotten how much I love being with children. All through my teenage and college years I was attracted to the children at church, playing with them after services. I loved being the father of two young boys when Brenden and Aidan were little. But as they grew older my focus shifted to being the father of high school boys, and I left the social world of children.

But now I'm back, and I remember all the things I loved about playing with children.

To be clear, it's also very hard work. Children can be irritating and boring. They can be oppositional, sneaky, demanding, loud and sullen. I'm very tired after those two hours of work.

But the joys outweigh the work.

I've always been fascinated with how Jesus paid attention to children. Jesus was good with kids. And I think there's something very important about that. I've always said, "The best test of character I know of is watching how you treat children."

I think children teach us the basics of being a human being. Children want you to bear witness, to behold, to see them. The requests you get over and over again are, "Look at me!" and "Watch this." and "Come here and see this." Most of what you do in being with children is beholding them. Seeing. Watching. Bearing witness.

Which requires two things. Presence and attention. You have to be there, and you have to have your eyes open.

And as I practice these skills again on Tuesdays and Fridays, I'm made aware that I'm being reeducated all over again in how to be a human being.

What we want most from each other is presence and attention. That's the basic language of love. But we so rarely offer each other this gift. Mostly because we are all, at various times, sullen, oppositional, demanding, and boring. So we look away. And we lose track of each other.

And eventually, we discover that we've left each other all alone, and that love is in short supply.

Presence and attention. That's what I think made Jesus so good with children. That when no one else saw them, he did.

The way he beheld everyone.

And so it is that a five year old girl takes my hand and tugs, pulling me toward the sandbox.

"Come and see," she says.

I follow.

And I behold.

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