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Homilies: “Honoring Children

Sitting on the ground,
with the huge universe of sky and space all around, may we let our eyes be open to the miracle of life in every person whom we see.
May our hearts and minds not be numb
or unaware or unconcerned.
The vibrancy of life is all around.
The power of love and nurture
is ours to bring into being,
to help ourselves and every child we meet.
Who we are and how we are with one another matters.
May we bring blessing and witness to
the sacredness of our being human. Amen.

When I conducted a memorial service for a nine-month-old in our church, the comment afterwards—among all the tears and offers of support to the family—was one I heard over and over. “You made him seem like a person who had lived a life, not a baby.”

Like so many people who have paid attention to their children, I know that babies come to us with a fullness of being that lives and experiences and interacts with the world. Children are not just cute objects to be adored or sentimentalized. They are human beings in the fullest sense, and they can remind adults of what being a human being really means. Even in the first hours and weeks, a baby can communicate and be communicated with, can display personality and mannerisms, can teach us how to see and love, and can learn from us how we respond and love in return.

All children are full beings, open to the experience of living and loving. Their eyes seek to see everything, their hands reach out to touch. Nurtured and supported, they love to learn, to create, to play, to engage life wholly.

When we wrap our children in blankets, what threads are in that fabric? Each of us brings threads to the weaving of our environment. We seek to wrap our babies in cloth of soft threads, smooth or silky, comforting. But all too often we discover that the threads in the blankets around most children include the itchy lines of greed or arrogance, the scratchy web of hatred and uncaring. Babies around the world, and children as they grow, are all being scarred by the world that has enfolded them.

What happens when that full humanness of a child is not nurtured and encouraged to grow? The child who is dehumanized, who is damaged, grows to be a person scarred and unable to see the humanity of a child or another adult. Whether it is consumerism and mind-numbing media, or hunger and violence, or racism and narcissism, our children are wounded by the blankets that we have inherited and that have wounded us.

What should we be offering to comfort our babies, to guide our children? Should we tell stories about how to survive in a tough world—how to grow calluses? If that is our answer to the pain, it will continue.

We need to feed children and keep them safe from being dehumanized. We need to teach our children to follow their own inborn instincts and to develop those qualities which make them most human. These life-expressing skills include the capacity to reach out to others, to express their needs clearly, to offer smiles and love unconditionally, to see the world with nonjudgmental, curious eyes, to get up from falls with courage. We need to teach our children to live out their love in this world and to remember how to be open to finding the love and nurture that a human being must have to thrive.

And we need to see how the plight of the saddest of children is a reflection of what we have brought to the fabric of our shared lives, our sadness and our wounds, which must be healed and not passed on to more children. When we can truly believe in life and love, and offer that gift to all children, we can share the blessing of the sacredness of our being wholly human.

Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship. Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.

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Last updated on Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

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