Bible says that unless you become as little children you will not
enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:2)
So then, this last weekend I found myself on the road to
righteousness. Well, not
exactly on the road, more on the floor, and, along with a group of
adults, being trained in playing children’s musical instruments –
xylophones, castanet’s, bells and rattles, to make a simple
orchestra. It was an
exercise in showing how to involve children in positive group
activities – and I wouldn’t even be mentioning it to you now,
except for the fact that I’ve discovered someone much bigger and
greater than me doing the same thing.
Barenboim is, among other things, a world-class concert pianist and
the acclaimed director of two great orchestras: The Chicago Symphony
’s Staatskapelle. Now he’s adding one more.
For the last three weeks he’s been running a music
kindergarten for Palestinian refugee children in the town of
. He told the Guardian
newspaper that “An hour of violin lessons in
is an hour where you get people interested in music.
But an hour of violin lessons in
is an hour away from violence and fundamentalism.”
interview is an interesting one and brings a positive balance into
news headlines too often filled with news of suicide bombings and
violence. It’s a lovely
ray of hope to find an acclaimed Israeli conductor teaming up with the
late Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said, to enrich young lives and
give pleasure and creativity. Barenboim
sees it not just as a bridge between the Jewish and Arab communities,
but as stretching out also towards
– sharing its rich heritage of classical music.
has thrown himself into a world where he can make a difference.
breaks down barriers and builds communities.
And it can happen anywhere in the world, and in any culture.
we move into Advent and the Christmas season we can find that
involvement coming in different ways.
For the last few weeks there have been appeals in our church
bulletin for helpers to feed the homeless on Christmas day.
Another advert appears for volunteers to assist at a Christmas
party for the over -70’s. All
very well and good. Admirable
in fact – but I always have this small niggling thought in the back
of my mind. What happens
to these homeless or elderly people for the rest of the year.
Do we only get involved with them at Christmas?
was taken back fifteen years this week, to a memory of the time my
daughter Amy was born. She
was in hospital along with my wife – and I had some time to spare
before visiting hours. I
chose to spend it visiting one of my church members, a senile old lady
living in a council run home. It
was a bit of a depressing place. You
would walk into a room with maybe 15 or so old people sitting in
chairs around the wall. There
seemed little activity. Most
of them just sat and stared at the carpet.
I’d been before.
never knew who I was. I
would talk with her, read the Bible and pray.
I’m sure she’d forgotten abut my visit as soon as I left
the room. But this day was
different. Tim was with
me. He was 3 ½ and keen
to see his baby sister. So
he also came with me to the old folks home.
He affect on the residents was amazing.
As we came in the door heads started to lift.
Smiles appeared on faces.
took a real interest in our conversation, especially when she
discovered my wife had just had a baby.
She was so delighted that a few weeks later I brought Amy to
show her. She was so
delighted! And it made an
impression. In subsequent
visits she always knew who I was, asked after Tim and Amy, took more
interest in life. When she
died a few months later her daughter told me how much mum appreciated
those visits. It made a
difference for her – also a difference for my children.
I found they enjoyed visiting with their minister dad.
I remember Amy telling me one day, “It’s fun to be a
minister! You visit lovely
old people who give you drinks and biscuits!”
I’d just taken her to see another old lady who was almost
blind, quite deaf and whose body was falling apart at the seams.
But she loved Amy, and she was herself, a lovely person.
She told me, “Pastor, I feel so useless. I
can’t do anything.” But
she could. She prayed.
And it was a great encouragement to me that I knew that
everyday she was praying for me and my family.
It’s a two way thing. It
bridges cultures and age groups. We can bless each other with it –
and we can change the world – even if it’s only in a small way.
Amy, now 15, wants to work with children.
We were talking about her running an orphanage when she’s
older. “No,” she said,
“I couldn’t do that.”
“Why not?” I asked. “Well,
I could only help 30 or 40 children.
What about the others on the outside?”
we do nothing because we cannot help everyone.
But what about it? Helping
30 or 40 children means there’s a group who will have a very
different future. Even
helping one will make a difference.
As Jesus said, “whoever welcomes one of these little
children, welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37)