Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Social Justice Magic Wand

On Saturday, we had an Advent event in my suburban church. We decorated gingerbread boys, baked Christmas bread, created Chrismons, and made Christmas cards for shut-ins. We invited the teenagers from a local Lutheran social service agency that shelters children who are in trouble.

I circulated, as I tried to be helpful to all the work stations. As I walked by the gingerbread decorating tables, one of the teenagers said to me, "Miss? Miss? This is the best part of my night."

At first I misheard him. I thought he said, "This is the best part of my life." Actually, I'm still not sure what he said. But I felt a piercing sadness.

I have chosen not to have children, and I've noticed that lots of people assume I don't have children because I hate kids. What balderdash! I don't have children for lots of reasons, and one of the main ones is because we live in a society that isn't very family friendly, no matter how much we talk about how we value children in our culture. No we don't. We value old people. Follow the money, and you'll see the values of a society. We don't fund schools, we don't do enough to protect children's health, our child/infant mortality rates are shameful, we don't help families with childcare.

But I'm digressing into a rant.

On Sunday, I told a friend about my Saturday experience and my piercing sadness. I said, "If I had a social justice magic wand and could wave it to eliminate one social problem, I'd wave my magic wand to make sure that all children live in homes with people who love them."

My spouse chimed in, "But love them appropriately." Yes, it is horrifying how many children suffer sexual abuse from people who claim to be their loved ones.

Children are so vulnerable. I kept trying to bat that thought away as I spent my Thanksgiving with the toddlers.

But in some ways, teenagers are even more vulnerable. They don't have as many resources as grown-ups, but people expect them to behave like grown ups. They don't have the cuteness factor protecting them, the way that little kids do. Or maybe, if they do have a cuteness quotient, it works against them by attracting the wrong kind of attention.

I'd need to remind my social justice magic wand that by children, I mean adolescents too.

Alas, I have no social justice magic wand. And so, I do what I can do. I pray and pray and pray. I participate in ministries to children in crisis. And then, I pray some more. I try to take comfort in the Advent message that God comes to us in all our messiness. God comes to make the crooked straight. God is our safe home, our sheltering parent.