(Christian Week – October 2014)
KAMPALA, UGANDA ✦ It’s the children who in the end will be given the keys to the Kingdom.
This is what Jesus said on the matter. Be a kid again. The way up is down. If you want even half a shot at eternal life, as if it were somehow possible, go and grow young.
Not because Our Lord thought kids are perfect, but maybe because He knew they’re not, that they will inevitably need to climb down from up there, or clean that mess, or stop playing with their peas.
Yes, this is the rub of it: children have a different angle on life altogether and when you’re too grown up, like with that strange passageway to Narnia, it’s all but impossible to find your way back through it again.
Maybe the Lord was also alluding to the fact that kids often have a way of giving thanks for even the smallest of pleasures.
“Mommy, daddy, brother sister,” is how my youngest, Hannah, once put it when asked what present she enjoyed most after her first Christmas with us. That’s all. Nothing more. Just this. Family. Belonging. Home, whatever bumps on the way that may include.
Hannah knows the life she could have had. She sees it routinely on morning school runs when we drive the streets of Uganda. She knows her story.
This includes the fact that long before we met her, my wife and I sat in our kitchen in Canada to pray for an adopted girl we could name Hannah, a particular name for a reason, to bring honour and healing into our family.
Eventually, we didn’t find this girl. She found us. Yes, one day after that kitchen prayer this little girl walked to us at a Ugandan orphanage and tapped me on the side of the leg. “And who might this be?” my wife said, looking down. “This girl is Hannah.”
So it goes, the mystery. Stop striving. Stop trying. Let go. Be more helpless. Maybe that’s what Our Lord meant when he said it’s the children who will win the day.
Because no child ever earns their adoption. Ask Hannah. You just wait and hope until your turn finally comes up and you walk through that gate, hand-in-hand to your new home, your inheritance, your joy, a life planned just for you long before you imagined it was even possible. That’s thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving, the season when even adults can give thanks for this or that: maybe for, say, good health. Or your freedom. Or your spouse or that job or new car. These things, after all, can bring some happiness.
And there’s nothing wrong with happiness. But with a bit of hard work and luck anyone, really, can attain at least some measure of this.
Joy on the other hand, the sort that children show, is something else. It’s richer. Simpler, yet more profound.
It’s the sort that looks up with big round eyes and says “Thanks God, for adopting me into your family.”
Now, while there’s no official Thanksgiving holiday in Uganda, our family, with Hannah and our other kids and some friends, will still celebrate this Jour de l’Action de Grâce on October’s second Monday.
Even in this corner of Africa, with our home-traditions, we’ll remember why Canada’s parliament had officially proclaimed the holiday, to “give thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”
And with any good fortune, we’ll be like kids about it.