Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December 5

Some Children See Him
Music by Dave Gruskin, Lyrics by Wihla Hutson and Alfred S. Burt,
performed by James Taylor

Some children see Him lily white, 
The baby Jesus born this night. 
Some children see Him lily white, 
With tresses soft and fair. 

Some children see Him bronzed and brown, 
The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.
 Some children see Him bronzed and brown, 
With dark and heavy hair. 

 Some children see Him almond-eyed, 
This Savior whom we kneel beside. 
Some children see Him almond-eyed, 
With skin of yellow hue. 

Some children see Him dark as they, 
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray. 
Some children see him dark as they, 
And, ah! they love Him, too! 

 The children in each different place 
Will see the baby Jesus’ face 
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace, 
And filled with holy light. 

O lay aside each earthly thing 
And with thy heart as offering, 
Come worship now the infant King. 
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

I am extremely fortunate to live and work in one of the most culturally diverse communities in North America.

And every, single day, it is not lost on me that I go to school to teach children...  but more often than not, it is the children who teach me.  From them, I learn more than I ever imagined I could.

As a middle-aged, pink-skinned woman, I am the minority, and often a great curiosity to these delightful little people.  They constantly pepper me with questions:  

"How old are you??" 
"Do you have a husband?"  
"How many children??" 
"Are you wearing MAKE-UP??"

One child saw me knitting, and immediately wanted to know, "Do you have GRAND CHILDREN??"

(I confess:  I immediately went shopping for new face cream, once the final bell rang that day...)

The children I teach proudly proclaim themselves to be "Brown", and range in shades from a delicate milky-almond to the most robust deep chocolate you can imagine.  

They are all beautiful.  Every, single one of them.  

I never tire of hearing tales of their families and home life.  In many cases, extended family members live all in one home, and I often have tremendous difficulty sorting out who are the sisters-and-brothers-or-cousins of whom.  The bonds are intense, and everyone looks after one another.

Many are brand new immigrants to this country.  When I begin the process of booking parent-teacher interviews, the invitations are sent home translated into no fewer than five different languages.  As responses trickle in, I ensure that the correct translators are available to be present, so that we can communicate with one another.

Sometimes, though, words are not necessary.

During the early days of my first teaching placement several years ago, a worried grandfather who did not speak a word of English appeared at my classroom door.  Using hand gestures and facial expressions, he did his best to convey to me that he wanted to know if his newly-arrived grandson was adjusting to his new school.  It took a few minutes for me to fully understand who he was, and what it was that he wanted to know...  but when I smiled and began speaking gently as I pulled books and drawings out of the little boy's desk, the grandfather began to relax and smile, too.   He eventually turned to leave, and I walked him to the doorway of my classroom.  He made a slight bow, and then chastely kissed my hand in an expression of gratitude.

Few gestures have ever carried as much meaning for me as that one did.

No matter who we are, no matter what part of the world we come from...  our children are our treasures.

Between them, my students celebrate nearly every, single holiday and religious observance on the calendar. There are a great many times of the year when I need to be sensitive about scheduling assignment due-dates and assessments.  When children have been absent from class, I always make a special effort to build time into our schedule for "community circle", when we all sit down together to talk and share.  When I begin asking questions about what it was like to go to celebrate in a Temple, or a Mosque, the children fairly burst with information: what they wore, what they sang, what they ate, how they danced...  It is always fascinating.

Several children have brought me copies of a sort of "comic book" which depicts the lives of their Gods-- I have been allowed to keep them to read, for as long as I like.  A group of little girls once offered to let me join their dancing group, and enthusiastically demonstrated the steps that they knew.  Last year, one sweet thing brought me a beautiful clay lamp, as I had mentioned my admiration for the observance of Diwali, and had said that I would like to light a candle with my own three girls.

"My kids", as I call them, are always incredibly generous with their knowledge and understanding.  

And for the most part, they take one another's differences completely in stride.

One of the loveliest sights of the winter is the beautiful Holiday Tree that is put up in the foyer of our school.  The ornaments are as diverse as the students in attendance, and symbolically reflect the many different celebrations that occur during the year.  These trees bring everything and everyone together, in one enormous, beautiful display.

I'll never forget that first year of teaching, when for the first time, the community circle discussion about "Christmas" ventured beyond presents, and the fat, bearded visitor in the red suit.  To be honest, it had not surprised me that so many families had chosen to adopt the "Western" tradition of including a visit from Santa Claus in their holiday plans.

"My kids" finally asked me what my children and I would be doing over the holidays.  I began to tell them about the decorations, the arrival of family, the preparation of the dinner, and of course, our Santa Claus...  

But I also told them a little bit about church, and all the beautiful music, the pipe organ and the choir.

Their enormous brown eyes betrayed their amazement as I spoke:  clearly they had never considered this before.

"You mean you're CHRISTIAN??!" exclaimed one little boy at last.

"COOOOOL!!" said another.

Never before in my life had I ever been considered a "novelty" for this reason.  It was yet another instance when I felt so grateful and proud to be a citizen of a place that is truly a "multicultural mosaic".

The next day was Friday...  the last day before our two-week school break began.  We had a class party, did special crafts and activities.

But before we all left for the day, a little girl approached me shyly.  She pushed a package wrapped in crumpled grey tissue paper into my hands.

"Here," she said.  "My dad took me out last night.  I got this for you.  To help you celebrate your Christmas."

I carefully undid the lashings of scotch tape, and my gift was revealed.

It was a crude plastic figurine depicting the Virgin Mary, in all of her alarming dollar store glory.

It remains one of the loveliest gifts I have ever received, and is still one of my most prized possessions.

"Some children see Him..."

I have learned so much during these extraordinary years.

I've learned that the real truth is this:

It doesn't matter how any child sees Jesus.  

A great many children really don't know very much about Jesus, if anything at all.  

They don't need to.  They have their own traditions; their own ways of understanding, expressing and celebrating Love.

What really matters-- really, truly matters-- is how children see one another.

I'm pretty sure that that's what Jesus thinks is most important, too.

No comments:

Web Analytics