I have been thinking about all children's curiosity and natural openness. They want to know and explore. At the same time, cultures teach their children to respond differently to what is different and new.
These thoughts are often on my mind, but never more so than in church last week. I have noticed for some time that about six kids usually sit in the pew beside me. Some are there each week and some are change. A teenager or adult often sits at the other end of the pew with them. Last week, they were even more open to me than usually. They vied to sit in the spot next to me. In fact, at one point in the service I had one sit on either side of me to avoid an argument.
One little girl kept reaching out to touch me. I believe she was fascinated by my white skin and the fine blond hairs on my arms. I had to stop her, though, when she decided to touch my glasses – she made prints that made it hard to see clearly! Most of the children next to me spent a lot of time smiling at me. What joy they impart.
I have similar experiences when I walk through town. It is often the children who greet me first. They are much more likely to smile at me and wave. (Many adults stare the first time they see me, looking stern.) Most children laugh with joy when I greet them in their language – and some adults do, too.
How do we train our children in the USA? I think it is more common to discourage them from greeting those who are different than they are. We discourage the natural curiosity. I understand stranger-danger, but I think it goes beyond that. I know, too, that here I am white and privileged which affects children’s responses, but, again, I think it goes beyond that.
What do you think? Have you ever thought about it? I would love to hear your perspective.