Sunday, December 16, 2012

What's good for the donkey...

...is best for our children - yours, mine and others'.

Last week while our children were listening to the audio Bible, (as they like to do when we're driving), these Old Testament verses practically screamed at me:
If you find an ox or a donkey that has wandered off, take it back where it belongs, even if the owner is your enemy. If a donkey is overloaded and falls down, you must do what you can to help, even if it belongs to someone who doesn’t like you. (Exodus 23:4-5 - Contemporary English Version)
I just said to myself, if God gave His people this commandments to "care" for their enemy (and his/her animal(s)), what do you think He requires from us - in looking out for each other and especially when it relates to our children?

An Ancient African Proverb says:
"It takes a village to raise a child."
In Africa there are variations to this proverb such as:
 "A child is a child of everyone." ~Sudanese proverb

"One knee does not bring up a child."
~ Tanzanian proverb

"One hand does not nurse a child." ~ East & Central African proverb

Are you shaking your head - in disagreement? I encourage you to keep reading - hopefully, you'll nod in agreement when you're done reading this...

When you take a step back to process these proverbs, you'll realize that how each child turns out is either a blessing or curse (God forbid) to not just that child's family but to the community and world at large. There are too many recent sad examples - just listen to the news: young adults killing children and other really horiffic instances. A lot of the investigations point back to a defect in the individuals' families and their upbringing.

Let's try this another way - by inserting the word "child" in the verse quoted above...

If you find a child that has wandered off, take him/her back where he/she belongs, even if his/her parents/guardians are your enemy. If a child is overloaded and falls down, you must do what you can to help, even if he/she belongs to someone who doesn’t like you. (Sapphire's personalization of Exodus 23:4-5)

If looking out for another person's donkey could give God pleasure - imagine how much happier He'd be with us when we look out for other people's children. I know that there are people who want to be left alone - to live in their box.* However, it is interesting how quickly some of them break out of the box when their children don't turn out right. I'm not saying that we should become busy-bodies because we are trying to help "raise each child." What I am saying is that as much as possible, let the children around you know that you care for them - because you look out for them.

The Bible is clear that we should love our enemies** so it means that we should even take the word "enemy" out of those verses (Exodus 23: 4-5) - and this takes us to the 3rd way of applying what I'll refer to as the "donkey-care" principle...

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words - and I really like this picture of words.

It's so easy to feel that if others don't look out for your child(ren) or they get cross when you do look out for theirs, that you are justified not to look out for theirs.
No, no, no...This picture captures it so well - like Mahatma Ghandi said:
"An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind."
So if we decide not to look out for each others' children, we'll all be the worse for it. The bottom line and hopefully your take-away from this rather long piece is:
 
Ignoring children around us is not to our benefit...it never has been and never will be.
 
Even President Obama noted this tonight in his speech*** (italics & bold mine):
With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.
 
It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.
 
And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.
 
This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

Let's do more than the people in the Old Testament - and look out for our & others' children.

With 9 days to Christmas and 15 before this leap year ends, purpose to give better than "donkey-care" to children and others around us. As God helps us, let's help each other...

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