by Rebecca Manor
Over the past few months I've adopted a bit of an ostrich approach to the news. I haven't beenchecking Facebook or reading the news, finding it too sad, too depressing, too disempowering. I've been focusing my attention homeward and but over the weekend I could no longer ignore the news as friends in Charlottesville alerted me to the heartbreaking events of this past weekend. I don't come here today to make any political statements as many have more eloquently denounced the hate and evil on display. I echo their voices and wish to empower you as parents. Within our homes we have the power to fight the hate and anger we saw displayed so vividly this past weekend. We have the ability to shape a generation that can listen with empathy, can live with the light of eternity coloring their vision, and can hold tight to that future seen by John, "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb."
Stories open up space in our hearts to listen to people who have lived lives different from our own. Stories tear down walls because we are no longer able to hide behind our prejudices when we are forced to confront the truth. Beautifully written fictional stories like The Hundred Dresses gently open up opportunities to discuss prejudice with our little ones. Miss Rumphius plants seeds of beauty in tender little hearts and inspires the desire to leave behind a legacy of graciousness. Amos Fortune paints an eloquent picture of the unwavering strength of true humility. Reading books that relate the first-hand experiences of enslaved people opens our eyes to this evil that tragically still exists nearly everywhere. And, of course, scripture reminds us that relinquishing our rights is right and exactly what our Savior did. Giving our children opportunities to hear from people whose life experiences are vastly different from our own reveals struggles we can only imagine. The tales of men and women who stood firm against evil can inspire bravery in our families as we decide to stand up against both great and small evils in our every day choices.
What we all saw over the weekend is part of the fallen human condition. Ultimately, as a Christian I believe the only permanent solution is the return of Jesus, but I also know that the sin of hatred grows most quickly in a mind without imagination. Imagination allows us to enter into experiences we cannot live ourselves. The beauty of a well-developed imagination is its ability to give us a taste for what others experience in their daily lives. Combining a curiosity and desire to know more about all people with the ability to imagine their reality is a powerful weapon against prejudice.
Reading stories with our children also allows us to confront evil as we encounter it in the books we read. Whether it's an epic historical struggle like World War II, or the evils of racist depictions of people, or tales of cruelty, providing a context in which to discuss these realities with our children in age-appropriate ways helps them prepare to confront them in real life. If a child is raised to adulthood without an understanding of the reality of evil and the power we have to defeat it, he will encounter a world full of unsurmountable threats and dangers. The irony of a protectionist approach to raising children is that it fails to prepare them to confront depravity, both inside their hearts and outside their front doors. This is not to say that childhood should be filled with tales of awfulness. I firmly believe in fiercely protecting childhood. It's more of an encouragement to read, read, read! As G. K. Chesterton so eloquently stated in Tremendous Trifles, 1909:
Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.Read fairy tales to fire up those imaginations. Read authentic historical accounts that portray historical characters in all their good and bad characteristics. Read books that grow your child's world and mind. This is one of the many ways we can stand against sin and evil and show our children what it means to love boldly.