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Just dropping by ... Little children

Yevet Tenney Published on 24 February 2014

Jesus loved little children. When He was pressed by the crowds and probably weary from His labors, His disciples thought He shouldn’t want to be bothered with little children climbing all over Him. They were probably surprised when He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I have often wondered at that statement, and I think over the years I have come to understand what He meant. Little children are definitely close to the Kingdom of Heaven I envision. To me, the Kingdom of Heaven is the extension of the earth but much more glorious. I don’t see us flying around in angel wings or plunking harps for eons.

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I see people living in perfect harmony, loving each other, serving each other and enjoying the best of eternal life with Jesus. I see people who are willing to forgive without holding grudges or gossiping about the faults of others. I see people who are willing to sacrifice to make sure the other person is happy.

Children are that kind of people. Of course they get upset easily, cry over skinned knees and throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want, but that is the nature of the earth coming out, and eventually they will get over that.

Children are pure in heart, love unconditionally, honest to a fault, understand the principle of justice, believe all things are possible and are deeply compassionate.

As I have been teaching first grade this year, I have been reminded of the sweetness of little children and their unfailing interest in the world around them. Everything is magical and new. Their curiosity is unbounded. One day a little guy brought a caterpillar to school for show and tell. I had a lesson plan all prepared and ready to launch.

My agenda was filled to the brim with the alphabet, letter sounds, math concepts and colors. The principal was making his daily rounds to make sure his teachers were on track. I was nervous wanting to make a good impression. I said, “We will show the caterpillar this afternoon when we have more time. Keep the caterpillar in the jar.”

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If I thought that would keep the caterpillar in the jar, I was sadly mistaken. In the middle of the alphabet, out comes the caterpillar, and every child jumps to the rescue. Twenty children were crawling around on the floor trying to help little Arion capture his caterpillar.

Heads were bopping up and down, under and over desks. Cupboards were slamming open and closed, and the teacher was flapping her arms like a mother hen trying to get her children back on task, but there was nothing to be done, until the caterpillar was safely back in the jar.

You would think that was the end of it. Oh no! The caterpillar was the focal point of every eye for the rest of the day, and it wasn’t the last time for the caterpillar chase. Little Arion had to check the caterpillar to make sure it was OK. It would not do just to look through the jar. He had to open it.

Adults would sit at their desks and roll their eyes and let Arion deal with his own caterpillar – after all, he should not have brought the creature to school, but children are different creatures. Everyone’s problem is their problem, and they must help. That is the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Children are enthusiastic about everything and aren’t afraid to show it. That is called rejoicing. Little Tobey is such a good example of the Kingdom-of-Heaven rejoicing. Tobey is all smiles with missing front teeth. He bounces up and down and bats his fists together with delight whenever he gets a star or a pat on the back for a job well done.

He is even delighted with work. One morning I said, “Now boys and girls, we are going to go through our letters.” He jumped out of his seat and batted his fists together and shouted, “I love letters!” I hadn’t seen that much enthusiasm even when someone announced, “We are going to have ice cream.” Children are really good at rejoicing over the little things.

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Many teens would have leaned back in their chair and said, “We did that yesterday. Do we have to do that again?” Some adults would have quietly and methodically opened their books while they thought, “This is boring.”

Many of us have lost the ability to rejoice, and there are so many things in life to rejoice about. There are miracles around us every day. Consider the computer and all its wonders. I just have to think of the typewriter, and I remember the miracle of the computer. Look at the cars we have compared to the Model T Ford. Our central heating and cooling.

Just look at the Internet and the magic that far surpasses the encyclopedia. We have dishwashers, microwaves, vacuums, cleaning systems and everything we could possibly ask for to give us more time, and we use that time complaining.

Children are sensitive to protocol and justice. They trust with implicit faith in what teachers and parents tell them. They don’t understand deception because they are “pure in heart.” One afternoon Braxton brought a butterfly to me in a little jar.

I knew if that creature got loose we would never catch it, so I told Braxton not to let it out of the jar, but his problem was different. “Teacher, he has a broken wing. I need to take him to the doctor.” I said, “You will have to do that after school.” Braxton looked up at me in distress, “Oh no teacher, he must get it fixed now.”

I tried to convince him that he must take the butterfly home. I knew his parents would deal with it. Braxton was undaunted. “He needs to go to the doctor.” I finally said, “Take him to the nurse; she will know what to do.” I was justly proud of myself, as I was able to get back to my rigid schedule with the rest of the class.

Braxton came back a little while later. The nurse pronounced the butterfly dead. “I am so sorry,” I said, “but let’s get back to work.” Braxton looked puzzled. “We need to have one of those things where everyone stands around and cries,” he said. I would have laughed outright, but he was so serious.

“We must do our work now.” He went back to his seat still looking sadly at the butterfly. At recess, I saw several children standing around in a circle around Braxton. He was having his funeral for the butterfly. Children are so sweet.

Children have another quality that makes them wonderful. They are easily persuaded. When one child is doing something good, all you have to say is, “I love the way Candice is holding her pencil.” Pretty soon everyone is the class is holding her pencil like Candice.

They are not looking at Candice saying, “Brown Noser.” They aren’t thinking, “The teacher never notices me. She likes Candice best.” There is no jealousy in their hearts or actions. They are just focused on pleasing.

Children don’t gossip. They don’t get in little groups and hash out the bad things they notice in their neighbors. They just forgive and forget. They have little fights and hurt each other, but the next time you see them, they are arm-in-arm and best of friends. The Kingdom of Heaven must be like that. Children are happy for each others’ success and try to emulate that success.

Often adults find reasons to trash the success of others. It is easier than rising above the mediocre. It is easier to find fault than it is to find the good. Children are very good at finding the good, not only in others but in themselves.

Their writing papers are good examples. I circle the letters that they write the best. I circle only a few but they will say, “Teacher look at that one; isn’t that good?” I circle more letters than I intended to.

I don’t know where we lose these qualities so abundant in children, but I think they are the very things the Savior was talking about when He said of children, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” PD

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