I encountered the smell of freshly mowed grass on my walk today. I love that smell. It reminds me of hot summers, of family gatherings, of regular walks through neighbourhoods, of childhood joy and adulthood work. It’s an evocative and lovely smell.
As the memories were flooding through because of the smell, I began to wonder what our children are saying, and will say, about the virus and our lockdowns. What will their memories of this time be? No school, no hugs, washing hands, no visits to the seaside. An hour walking in the neighbourhood every day, learning to cook with whatever is at hand, lots of screen time? Children are great at saying things like they are. Their words may then give us insight into how we have responded to this “crisis.” When our children speak, I wonder what they will tell us about ourselves?
Another question that may arise in reflecting on what our children are learning is, “What do we want them to learn from us?” I hear a world leader drone on about building walls and his prejudices. In contrast, I hear others talk about community spirit. Which do I want children to learn? I hope we will all learn to let your walls down, to open space for people, to listen to voices that are different than ours. Maybe we have to listen in different ways, look in at different media, but there are new and old voices that have something to teach us. Will we listen to them? Are we listening to our children?
A song that always touches me deeply is Marty Haugen’s, Let Us Build a House Where Love Can Dwell (All Are Welcome). One of our basic human needs is shelter. We need to be protected. We need a place of safety. What we are called to build is not a place that excludes but a place that welcomes, where the doors are not locked tight against the world, like the fearful disciples in an upper room after Jesus’ death, but a place in which doors are flung wide open and everyone can come in. In that place they find physical safety and emotional and spiritual safety. We are called to build a place that meets basic human needs—physically and spiritually.
So how can we, while social distancing, create the kind of place? How do our children see us creating community, listening to God, responding basic human needs now?