Rod Dreher

In our house, the usual nighttime routine involves me lying down with each of our two younger kids — Lucas is six, Nora is three — praying with them, then talking with them about what’s on their minds. In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, the kids were really, really worried about the Haitians. At one point, Lucas asked me about how the Haitians get food, and I told him about how even before the earthquake, they were so hungry that some of them were forced to eat dirt. That weighed heavily on their minds. After that, whenever we’d get to the point in our nightly prayers when I’d ask the kids what they wanted to tell God, the first thing they’d say, both of them, was, “Please God, help the people in Haiti” — and they’d always mention food in particular.
This became such a routine that I quit noticing it. It continued with them long after Haiti’s suffering was out of the news. One night last week, Nora wanted to know again how the Haitians were doing. I told her what I knew, and she said, “Why don’t we help them? Our family?”
It was the most reasonable and natural request in the world. But in my insensitivity, I hadn’t thought of it. The next morning, I suggested to Julie that she get the kids together around the computer, and that they make a donation to Haitian relief. They did, that afternoon, and the little ones were proud.
Last night, Nora says in bed, “Dear God, thank you for this day. Please help the people of Haiti not to eat rocks and dirt and garbage. Help them to use our money to find good food to eat.”
I dunno, that just got to me. Why is it that we adults, who know so much more about faith and charity and responsibility, don’t respond as children? Raising kids of my own, I am coming to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Another quick story. Late yesterday afternoon, I spoke to my parents. My father asked me to be sure I sat down with the children and explained to them what Memorial Day was all about. After the conversation ended, I sat down with the kids in the living room and told them why Memorial Day was so special. I told them that their mother’s uncle died in a training accident, preparing to go fight in a war, and that there were many, many soldiers who died defending our country. Today we remember them. I said, “We have to remember to pray for them.” I’m thinking at bedtime, we’ll add some prayers for the military dead.
Nora looks up at me with those big brown eyes, and says, “Let’s light a candle for them.” She meant: Now. Well … yeah, why not? I lit candles — one for her late grand-uncle, and the other for all the soldiers — in front of our icon of Christ, and we all stood as a family and recited prayers for the dead. Nora made that happen. She didn’t do as I did, and think, we can put that off for later. If Memorial Day was as serious as I was telling her, then we shoudn’t waste any time in lighting a candle and praying for the military dead.
She was right. I was lazy. I should pay more attention to the spiritual lives of my children. They have so much to teach me.

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