Review of Chapter 1, “Not Someday… Today”
by Henry Zonio
“Too many of us tend to treat childhood as a preamble to actual life, a vulnerable period of time merely to be survived in order to get on with the real business of being a valid, contributing member of the human family. This is the mind-set that causes us to speak of children as ‘tomorrow’s world’ or ‘the church’s future.’ As noble as those phrases sound, they are all about pushing off the value of children to the Realm of Someday. Someday they will add value. Someday they will make a difference. Not today.”
This paragraph sums up the impetus of this first chapter in Too Small To Ignore. Dr. Stafford recounts his first days in New York as a 14-year-old who arrived straight from the Ivory Coast where he grew up as a missionary kid. He was challenged by a Coney Island barker to break some bottles with a slingshot and marbles. Growing up in the Ivory Coast where the primary plaything/weapon of children was a slingshot, Stafford had very little of a challenge and quickly won a large prize. Dr. Stafford made a quick transition from the bustle of New York City to his experience as a younger child in the country Nielle, Africa. He recalls that children of all ages contributed to the village in any way they could and were able. He and his friends had the job of keeping baboons from the cornfields using their slingshots. I could vividly imagine a group of boys, slingshot in hand, waiting to teach irreverent baboons a lesson! They even brought in the occasional baboon for supper in the evening. All ages were a part of village life.
“The path to adulthood started in early childhood. As a child grew, he or she did more and more of what adults did. We were taught, challenged, praised, teased, and loved, all on a steady path toward becoming adults.”
Stafford goes on to say that we have removed opportunities for children to contribute to life, whether that be at home, in the community, and even in church.
As someone who works with children, I wholeheartedly agree that children have something to contribute now. One of the things I reinforce with my children as well as the children I minister to is the fact that they are capable of changing the world around them for the better as they follow Christ. We give them opportunities to do that by challenging them to give towards a child we sponsor. We challenge them to care for creation. We encourage them to look for opportunities to serve the people around them in anyway they are able.
Recently, at our church, the student ministries pastor brought together a group of junior high boys to form a junior high worship band. He along with some other student ministries band members worked with these kids to help them master a couple of songs. The junior high kids had even learned one of the songs on their own. A couple months later, on Fathers’ Day weekend and we had the junior high worship band play one of the songs they knew in the main auditorium. While they were not the most perfect band in the world, they were able to contribute to our overall faith community. We need more of that happening across the age spectrums in our communities and churches. We need to have more opportunities for kids to contribute. That can be in the form of kids leading worship sometimes or families working together on service projects in the community or abroad or kids bringing in canned food to help stock a food bank. Kids can contribute today. Kids need to contribute today.