December 22nd, 2006 11:58 EST
Angels - Give them our Hearts
(Above Painting is Christmas, oil on canvas, Juanita Guccione).
I used to sit in a pure Sunday school dread of the clear, clean thoughts everyone else was thinking compared to my own inner darkness. There was a big white banner strung up in our Sunday school in Bayshore, Long Island, that said in black Gothic letters, Suffer the little children to come unto me. I was suffering alright, but I didn’t believe Jesus would want any part of me. After all, if He was God He certainly knew what was wrong with me.
Now, as an old man, I recognize that I didn’t know, I only thought I knew. This is the terrible lot of all children who have been, as we used to say when we were genteel, interfered with. They believe it has happened to them because they somehow brought it upon themselves. They believe their abusers are sitting there thinking pure thoughts, having abused them because they weren’t thinking them.
Once in a bustling mall I saw a young mother with a black eye, pushing a stroller as if it were a battering ram. As I watched she slapped the little boy walking beside her on the back of his head and hissed, Are you gonna get it when we get home! His home was a place where he’s going to get it, not a refuge. Get what? What his mother had so obviously gotten. I am no more able to forget that scene than I am the abuses that froze me in my tracks when I was in the custody of people posing as adults.
So this Christmas, having departed one inhumane century and emabarking upon what promises to be another, my thoughts turn to the children who have arrived here unwanted, who are starved and abused, who witness horrific scenes before they even know how to think about them, whose innocence is stolen every day, every moment, and who deserve to be welcomed as angels.
We cannot be a better world, no matter how much we talk about it, unless we suffer them to come unto us, unless we shelter and protect and love them. The horror of comprehending he or she is not loved is too much for a human being, perhaps too much even for an angel. And yet it is this comprehension in children that we’re so determined to blink away, because of course it’s an indictment in whose comparison the Nuremburg indictments pale.
When I consider the lights, the orgy of consumerism, the frenzy of mailing blessings to each other, congratulating each other on our good will, while I think of Darfur and Iraq, I fear the human soul cannot bear such paradox. Can we truly bear each other, can we bear our own consciences when we know such atrocities continue? Are they so far away that we can insulate ourselves from them with jolly Santas, shopping, singing and platitudes galore? With this dark void in our centers will we not implode?
And even if we could bear this monstrous paradox, there would still be children all over the world being abused, abandoned, ignored, deceived, denied.
Sometimes from the pulpit we’re told we may be entertaining angels unawares. Of course we are. We want them to shelter us, to bring us gifts, to make our Christmases merrier, to arrange our love affairs, to bless our undertakings, but do we shelter them, do we love them, do we tell them the truth, do we respect their unique gifts?
I took me a long time, perhaps a lifetime, to accept that Jesus meant me. How could I have understood that, how could any child whose innocence wasn’t safeguarded, whose gifts weren’t honored, whose sanctity was violated?