Loving Our Neighbor: Lessons from Children
By: Dr. John Blumenstein, Head of School
During a recent chapel, we listened to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, focusing upon the significance of the numerous details of this famous story. What is the context for Jesus’ telling of this story? Who were the priest and the Levite? Why did they pass by the man who was robbed? What do we know about this road that winds its way down from Jerusalem to Jericho? Who were the Samaritans? Why would Jesus tell a story in which a Samaritan is the hero?
In the midst of asking and discussing questions about such details, a question from an elementary student caught me off-guard.
“What does ‘half dead’ mean?”
This led to a discussion of the man’s physical injuries, his lack of consciousness as a result of the robbers’ violence which, in turn, led to a cascade of other questions from students.
“Why did the robbers do this to the man?”
“Why was he treated this way?”
“Why did they beat him up and hurt him?”
“Why did they steal everything, even his clothing?”
As I observed the faces of those asking these questions, I saw puzzled looks, body language that seemed to reflect genuine wonder as to why anyone would be so mean as to rob someone and leave him “half dead.”
This experience challenged me to listen more carefully to children’s questions, discerning what their questions might tell us about them as learners. Far too often as adults we talk down to children and see ourselves as interrogators, not allowing space for their questions and expressions. I recall the old adage from my childhood years “Children should be seen and not heard.”
Now you might be wondering how I responded to those questions. First of all, they caught me off guard because I thought I, the adult, was the one who was supposed to be asking the questions. I confess I failed to fully embrace this opportunity to listen and to learn.
Their wonderings and their imaginings spoke volumes about them as learners. Ultimately, I found myself rejoicing that they would even be asking these “Why” questions, questions deeply rooted in a sense that something was not right about this situation along the road to Jericho.
In their own way, they were protesting the violence. Their intuitive sense of the abnormality of this situation provided opportunity to celebrate all the more the outcome of the story and our calling as human beings to love our neighbor. These children modeled for us one way we can love our neighbors, protesting violence by first asking “Why?” and continuing to protest through the outpouring of love and mercy.
May the Lord grant us the time and the space that we desperately need to listen to one another, to learn from one another, and to learn with one another.
And may we all embrace the challenge Jesus offers at the end of the parable to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).