A few days ago I was visiting the local elementary and middle school in Chontal, and I took a seat outside as the students were in recess and the day was finishing up. One of the second graders that I know came up and sat beside me. She looked at the hairs on my arm and said, “You are getting old.” I looked down and she was fingering through the new silver hairs that have shown up. I said, “Yeah, I’m getting old.” Then she put her head on my shoulder and said, “But I’ll never forget you!” I laughed as I thought to myself, “I’m not about to DIE.”
Then, she reached into her backpack and took out a mandarin orange and gave it to me. She ate one, too, and when we were done peeling and eating, she reached again into her backpack and pulled out a little change purse. She opened it up and found that it was empty. So I asked her for it myself, to check it myself. I opened it up, tipped it upside down, and shook it, and sure enough, a nickel fell out (I wonder where that came from??). I gave her the nickel as she smiled. She went through another pocket in her backpack and pulled out several nickels. Then she went off and said, “Save my seat.”
Well, about 15 minutes go by and other kids come by to chat, and finally she comes back out of the blue, with her backpack. She pushes whoever is next to me aside, and sits down. She opens up her backpack and it is filled with mandarin oranges. She gives me one, one to the boy on the other side, another the older girl. She had gotten them from the tree behind the school, for free. But that’s what kids do, they get for free and they give for free. Because of that, we all sat together content, sharing delicious mandarin oranges together. I won’t forget that moment.
Last week I took a taxi to get to the bus terminal. I paid the driver, and got out and got my ticket for the bus. I waited about 15 minutes until the bus was about to leave, and then boarded. I got to a seat, put my stuff down, and reached into my pocket for my little cell phone that I use for calls and checking the time. It wasn’t there. After poking around the bus and the terminal, it was obvious: it must have fallen out of my pocket in the cab. I never heard from the phone again. I tried calling it, but it went straight voice mail. Now, you would think that the person who found it for free, would be willing to give it back for free. They might think that the owner really needs that phone, that maybe it’s really important. But no. And so, there’s no great experience together, no tasty oranges to share. Just a lot of extra running around and exhaustion getting a new phone.
That’s what happens when we grow up and lose our kid-ness. We don’t want to give for free. And there’s no tasty fruit.
I think that one of the most important things that Jesus said was to become like children. That’s the very first thing that he did, isn’t it? That’s what Christmas is all about, right? Jesus started everything with his kid-ness. And he never lost it, even when he grew up. And that’s the biggest gift he wants to give each of us, especially if we’ve lost it.
There is a way to taste the best fruits life has to offer – let Jesus give you what he wants to share with you:
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3)