Passing on the Gift
By the Rev. Tim Schenck
Sometimes our children are much better at being adults than, well, adults. Sure, they may have less on their minds – I can’t remember the last time a child had to pay the mortgage, worry about getting laid off, or do the taxes – and it’s not like they ever remember to feed the dog. But their passion surrounding issues of justice can be inspiring.
This summer, the children of St. John’s in Hingham participated in a program called “Animal Crackers,” sponsored by Heifer International to teach kids how animals can help eradicate global hunger. Each Sunday they learned about a different animal and how it could positively impact a family below the poverty line. Along the way they met some live animals including three chickens, a rabbit, and a goat. I think the llama was sick on its appointed day.
The children also raised $740; enough to purchase a cow ($500), a goat ($120) and a pig ($120) to help families in need. In addition to soliciting funds from parishioners after church (how could anyone possibly say no to a young child holding a blue bucket in the shape of a fish?), some children got creative in their fundraising approaches. Three siblings set up a lemonade stand on a Sunday afternoon and raised $20 while one youngster, seven-year-old William Buckley, single-handedly raised $105 over the summer.
According to his mother, Mariclaire, William cleaned his grandparents’ houses for money, held a mini-yard sale, sifted the soil the family had dug up for a new patio in the backyard and sold it as “loam,” put on puppet shows with his younger brothers for a quarter (minimum eight shows!), and set up a pickle-aid stand to which nobody came.
I love this story for several reasons. First, I never even considered drinking a glass of pickle-aid – I’ll have to try some. Second, I get a kick out of any seven-year-old that knows the word “loam.” Not being much of a gardener, I’m not sure I could identify loam if I fell into a big pile of it.
But mostly, I love William’s creativity, diligence, and passion. His response to hearing stories of people in need translates into action. And shouldn’t that be the goal of every person of faith? In Matthew 25, the chapter that may well be Exhibit A for faith-based social justice, Jesus reminds us that “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” He’s talking about welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick. In other words, all the things embodied in a child’s desire to help those less fortunate.
One of the hallmarks of Heifer International’s approach to ending world hunger is called “passing on the gift.” Once families receive a gift of livestock they agree to give one of its animal’s offspring to another family in need, thereby passing on the gift. That’s really what these children have done for me and our entire congregation these past few months. The cynicism so prevalent in adults doesn’t translate into the language of children. Maybe this is what the prophet Isaiah means when he says “A little child shall lead them.” But the reality is that through their passion and dedication, they have all done their part to “pass on the gift” of inspiration. We, along with several families, have been both blessed and enriched by their gift.