Turning a corner in the Old Town of Stockholm, we barely avert being towed down the river of humanity suddenly surging round us. These people aren’t tourists – too much tension for that. The banners and chanting take deciphering -- Swedish to English – but we finally get it: this is a tide of disgruntled demonstrators called Communists. (Strange coming from a people with one of the lowest poverty rates in the world.) As I purposefully turn my eyes away from a confrontation between protestors and police on horseback, I glimpse something even more disturbing: a child in the middle of the parade on Daddy’s shoulders.
We enter another orthodox church of stone, built on a holy site, predictably full of wooden pews, stained glass windows, and shrines of golden saints. At least the cathedral is cool, if not awe-inspiring, and so I sit: near the middle, where I can watch people best. They come and go, site-see-ers seeking souvenirs and spirituality in the Judean desert. For the most part, they spend the ten minutes the tour operator has given them digitizing the dark crannies and dusty crypts, drifting without a program; except for the woman who suddenly bustles past me, a daughter of six or seven in hand. The woman stops with dead reckoning in the very center of the chapel and lowers one knee to the tiled floor, then bows her head. Two seconds later, Mother stands and turns to Child waiting two feet behind, pointing forcefully at the spot she just rose from. The girl moves quickly to mimic the rite verbatim; hair covering face, skirt beneath knee, almost a pratfall as she scurries out the door after her Model.
From this hill, our three Israeli companions point out The Church of Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock, and the “Mormon University” on the opposite slope. Did you know we are Mormon, we ask? Surprised faces. We did not! We have some questions for you, they say. I leave it to Dale and sit beneath a tree a few yards away. The surreal aspect of the situation suddenly hits me, and I watch our animated friends with fascination. Earlier that day, Shlomi had explained that he was Jewish, but secular. When Benji joined us, his yamaka gave him away as orthodox, a Zionist actually. And as the day progressed, Moti made it clear that he practiced his religion, but moderately. Why? I had asked all three. Why do you believe and live as you do? Shlomi shrugged, Benji smiled, and Moti looked thoughtful, but their answers were word for word the same: I was raised that way.
Our personal guide Aton, though well over 60, is powerfully built and moves so decisively, we have a hard time keeping up. Yet when he tells the stories of Jesus on the shores of Galliee, or reads Matthew 5 atop the Mount of Beatitudes, he holds very still and his voice is full of care. Tell us more, we say, about YOU: you are Jewish? I am. Yet you give tours of the Holy Land. Yes, I enjoy the faith of the Christians and wish I could believe too. Why don’t you? I was raised in a Kibbutz as an Atheist.
I will treat the little people at church today with increased respect, and cannot help wishing, as a precursor to the wish for world peace, that all grown-ups would do the same for children EVERYWHERE.
Muse with me: How might this perspective affect the way you teach children?
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post by fellow Muser, Bri Colorful:
Photos of children''s faces from Dreamstime