Childhood, 4.7.11

“Pause for thought” on BBC Radio 2’s “Vanessa Feltz Show”

Childcare is a vital business.  This morning millions of children across the country will be cared for in playgroups, schools and family homes.  Quite rightly we expect high standards of care.  In the early years of life not only are children dependent and vulnerable, but how they are treated has a huge impact on how they develop into adulthood.  Childhood matters – and that’s why ‘Childhood’ is the theme on this week’s ‘Pause for Thought’.

Children are naturally playful and inquisitive.  Providing a stimulating environment which they can explore, and engaging with them whilst they do it, literally develops their brains at a faster rate – which is why it is so important to encourage parents and others to talk to, and interact with, their babies as much as they can – and there are several campaigns to promote just that.

Children are also naturally very trusting.  They want to relate – and they respond very quickly to smiles and encouragement.  Basic trust is a crucial environment for a child to grow up with a healthy attitude to life – which is why betrayals of trust, such as in cases of child abuse, are so devastating and are rightly condemned.

In adulthood most people tend to become far less trusting of others – some would say more realistic about life.  But if we take this too far, life becomes very difficult.  If you are getting on the bus this morning to go to work you need to trust that the driver will take you to the right place and drive sensibly and safely.  Most of our transactions with others are so much easier if we can trust each other.  Much of modern life has removed the trusting, relational element – so we build vast, time consuming systems to prevent, for example, fraud and abuse.  Just think of the PIN numbers and security words you need to access your bank account if you have one, or your e-mails.

Perhaps we have something to learn from the natural trusting attitude of children.  There is a story in the Bible about a time when people brought their children to Jesus for him to bless them.  Jesus’ disciples tried to shoo the people away, but Jesus said to them,

‘Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it’.

I don’t think for a minute that Jesus was commending a naive attitude to life which fails to see its difficulties or the countless ways it can seem unfair.  But I do think he was reminding people of the deeper reality of God, who constantly seeks to bring good out of ill, and light out of darkness – and the importance of  learning to place a basic trust in that love of God.