Sunday, May 22, 2011


When Dale slipped out the door to the airport this morning, I was still under the covers. It is never a pleasant sensation to wake up and realize he is gone. This morning I felt that an additional uneasiness -- the one I always feel when his destination is somewhere in the Middle East: a place where, as we all know, people and tradition clash in unforgiving ways. I lay in bed, reminiscing about our trip to Israel last fall...and then made the connection to another memory from a trip only weeks ago to...


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.

Tiberius, Israel

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.

Jerusalem, Israel

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.

Nazareth, Northern Israel

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.


These and dozens of other experiences traveling abroad, have expanded my view of humanity. I appreciate in a new way how deeply rooted and interconnected faith and identity are. So entrenched become the belief systems of our childhood, that the scriptures use the word "riveted" to describe how "the creeds of men" are imbedded in "the hearts of the children."

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?

Related Musings: Romance the Heart
Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Northern Israel in a Day

Highly recommended/ directly related
post by fellow Muser,
Bri Colorful:

Photos of children''s faces from Dreamstime


Heidi said...

Very thought provoking and beautifully written, as always. :)

crumbcrunchersmom said...

Kids deserve all the love and respect we can give them, for sure. Our greatest hope for our little ones is that they will have more than tradition to guide their lives. They will have TRUTH and conviction!

Thanks for painting such a vivid picture....riveting!!

Sara Lyn said...

The more I learn about how children learn (???) :), the more carefully I treat very young children. The first three years of life are when they are absorbing the very most - shouldn't this be the time to instill virtues and habits to last a lifetime? I know some people would tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, but as I've watched my nieces and nephews and the many other little children I know, it's been surprising how much they learn and how much they can do at such early ages. Not to mention being consistent as they grow older. (Thank you, Elder Bednar.) :) I have to say I am grateful for the time I've had to observe and plan out a parenting strategy versus just being tossed in with no idea of what is going on. I like what crumbcrunchersmom said about kids deserving our love and respect. I enjoyed observing her do just that with her children.

This feels like just a spewing forth of thoughts. Hopefully they make a little sense.

Sarah said...

I can see and feel my influence on my children daily. Sometimes it's just above me.
Looking back on my past, I can remember moments as a child where I was introduced to false principles and KNEW they were wrong.
I'm so grateful for the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ that help me to know HOW to teach such innocent beings. Additionally, I'm grateful they come with their own light that helps them see between truth and error!

Mona said...

Blogger was in trouble yesterday - no comments allowed. Bri Colorful tried to post this:
I just wanted to let you know I read Riveted today and enjoyed it. We've talked about something similar in my poly-sci class: that voter demographics are usually pretty predictable because you tend to vote the same way your parents do. The institution of the family is most powerful for sure. Institutions of religion and education (often controlled by state) follow closely behind. If you can align all three in their life, you have great power over the person a child becomes.

We've been discussing this determination v. individualism debate (ie. nature v. nuture if you want to simplify it) in one of my theory classes. I think Louis Althusser's theories on Ideological State Apparatus's and the influence of the "interpretive community" that we grow up in are very interesting. You can read more about them here: under the ISA heading.

Grant said...

This is very interesting and true! The fact that children follow after their parents is both a blessing and curse, depending on the parents. I think education is really important to helping children learning to think critically about their lives and make good choices, either with or against their parents examples.

Your stories were so interesting, especially when they comes from other cultures. Anytime we can show global results for a phenomenon, they instantly become more intriguing and believable.