'A child shall lead them' rings true

November 3, 2012 

Let me begin by saying I love Halloween. It is one of my all-time favorite holidays.

And really, what's not to love: a holiday with low preparation where kids and adults alike play make believe for an entire night, where neighborhoods come alive, and in the end we're all rewarded with bags of chocolate.

My husband and I took our three kids trick-or-treating Halloween night.

As our kids schlepped their bags of candy from one door to the next, we took great pride because we made sure our kids said "thank you." We'd shout from the sidewalk, "Did you say, 'Thank You?' Did you SAY, 'Thank you?' DID YOU SAY, 'Thank you!?'"

Heaven forbid our neighbors think our children were selfish or ungrateful for the gifts they had received.

But as our kids were shoving one another back and fourth between houses, darting into the open street while showcasing their dark-colored costumes in the middle of the night, my brain went all "responsible parent" on me. Bummer.

I realized I just encouraged my sweet 2-year-old to waddle up to a door, open his bag, and take candy from a stranger.

Oh, and forget about sibling loyalty. That was gone after the first doorbell rang. They left one another in the dust in the race for more sugar.

When my daughter fell down and started to cry, did my oldest stop and turn around to help her up? Nope. I'm pretty sure I heard him murmur "sucker" under his breath before he tore off down the sidewalk. To each his own.

In war, in the Tour de France, people stop to help. But NOT for trick-or-treating! Step on the hand that has fallen. It's a dash to the next door. Doorbells to ring! Chocolate to be had! It's CAAAAAAANDY!

And honestly, things weren't much better at home.

Hoarding. Stealing. Lying. And worst of all, forgetting to honor Mother when she wants a Milky Way.

Were we being completely consistent with the values they got from home or their religious life?

I had to stop and wonder how often and how seriously have we been straying from the teachings of our faith? Are they taught one thing on Sunday morning and as soon as we walk out of the church we counter the gospel with our words or actions?

Honestly? It usually begins as soon as we get in the car after service. They won't get buckled, and I lose my patience in the parking lot.

And what about Sabbath Keeping? God set aside this day for us to rest and bask in God's good creation. While in the best of times we do a pretty good job of trying to keep Sabbath, there are just some days we act as if God isn't as important as a soccer game or a two-­hour meeting or, really, any time we are under stress.

Thank God for the village and our faith community.

Splashed over the news this week has been a story about a little girl who was listening to the radio with her mom when she started crying. When asked why she was upset, she responded, "I'm tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney."

Is this little girl sobbing because what she understands is fighting in the simplest way? That people are being unloving to one another? That the idea of peace has been thrown to the wind? Why is this a national news story?

Perhaps because it comes from the lips of babes. She in her innocent directness has busted us in our faith-­value failure, where we've taught her how to act in the world, and then gone out and done other. She has exposed us all.

One of the most surprising blessings of parenthood has been how profoundly affected my life has been while nurturing the faith development of my children. When I can see the disparity in their lives between how God has called us to live, and how we're living, it keeps me honest, and my better self comes through -- the self that I have been called to be, "A child shall lead them."

May it be so.

The Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas, is pastor to youth and families at Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, Lakewood Ranch. She can be contacted at tdthomas@peacepcusa.com or at 941-706-1793.

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