But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs belongs.” Matthew 19:14 (NRSV)
I have just today finished reading a Washington Post article that a friend sent to me. The article by Emily Badger is entitled, “The Terrible Loneliness of growing up poor in Robert Putnam’s America.”
As it turns out, Putnam grew up in Port Clinton, Ohio, a working-class neighborhood, and in his years since leaving Port Clinton for college, he has, as we like to say in the South, “a craw stuck in his throat.” Badger explains, “The Harvard political scientist, famous for his book Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster, 2001) that warned of the decline of American community, has returned to his alma mater, Swarthmore College, to talk, this time, about inequality. Not between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, but between two groups that have also fallen further apart: children born to educated parents who are more likely to read to them as babies, to drive them to dance class, to nudge them into college themselves — and children whose parents live at the edge of economic survival.”
For the last three years Putnam has been seeking to make “the inequality in opportunity for kids to the central issue in the 2016 presidential election. Not how big government should be or what the “fair share” is for the wealthy, but what’s happening to children boxed out of the American dream.” (Badger)
So, what about that? Didn’t Jesus tell us that we should let the children come to him because to such belongs the very realm of heaven? If that is so, shouldn’t one of our top priorities be to make a difference in the inequality between those families who at increasing rates have the ability to give their children opportunities and those who do not? What if those of us who have enough decided to make a difference in the life of one child in a working-poor family or a single-parent household? What would that look like? How might it change our world?
I am convinced that if we really want to be the people of God that Jesus called us to be, we will have to make some dramatic efforts to make a difference in our world today for those children who do not have someone to read to them every night. Several years ago, I saw a program on some of the poorest places in Texas where families scrape by on little to nothing and children have to ride the bus for hours just to get to school. When one little elementary aged girl was asked what she wanted she didn’t say new clothes or toys she simply said, “I would like a little more to eat.”
In some translations the words of Jesus are, “Suffer the children to come unto me.” Maybe it is time we suffered just a little so that the children can be fed and can have what they need.
Holy One, it must break your heart that we live in the wealthiest country in the world and yet some of your children go to bed hungry. Help me, I pray, to do one thing today and everyday to make a difference in the great divide between those who have and those who do not. Amen.