(Originally published 8/15/13)
This post is a bit different from what I usually write. I love kids and though I don’t have my own (yet), I’ve worked in childcare in some capacity or other for the last thirteen years. I recently finished reading a book on Irena Sendler and it gave me a thought I wanted to share.
For those of you who have never heard of her, she was a social worker in Warsaw during World War 2. She, together with a network of helpers, rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto and many adults as well. She and her associates smuggled these children out in countless different and ingenious ways, at great personal risk and sacrifice to themselves.
Irena herself was arrested at one point and spent 100 days in a Nazi prison, suffering through brutal interrogations, inhuman living conditions, and constant death threats. She was scheduled to be executed but was released by a guard who had been bribed by Irena’s friends. She was officially reported dead and had to go into hiding. Even then she continued her work.
By the end of the war she had suffered through and born witness to a level of inhumanity that most of us can hardly fathom. Still she did not stop helping. She worked tirelessly to rebuild Warsaw and reestablish the community. And she remained a staunch supporter of Jewish rights, even to the detriment of her health and home life.
With all that, the most memorable quote in the book for me actually came from Ms. Sendler’s father.
In the chapter chronicling her childhood, we learn that her father was a doctor who treated the poor, often receiving no pay and sometimes even giving his patients money for medication. He caught typhus and died after treating people during an epidemic that no other doctors would go near. Here is an excerpt from that chapter:
“I was a very pampered child. When they visited us and saw just how extraordinarily mollycoddled I was, both my aunts, who were teachers, would say to my father: ‘What are you doing, Stanislaw? What will become of this child?’ My father would then answer: ‘We cannot know what life holds in store for my daughter. She may not have fonder memories than when she was mollycoddled.’ As I often remember how difficult my life has been, I also reflect on how prophetic those words were”
– ‘Irena Sendler: Mother of the Children of the Holocaust,’ by Anna Mieszkowska
Three times a week, I watch two little boys, ages two and four, and I don’t think I could love them much more if they were my own children. I love spending time with them for a number of reasons, not least of which is seeing all the spiritual metaphors between earthly children and spiritual children of God. Both sets of kids make so many of the same mistakes. I believe children need discipline and structure and this belief hasn’t changed. But more and more often, as I try to help these two little guys navigate the turbulent seas of toddler-hood and preschool, I feel God tug at my heart to show grace. This quote has come to mind several times already and melted my heart, filling me with compassion for the sweet little miscreants.
More than anything, I’ve come to realize just how much power we have over the situations in children’s lives and how much responsibility we carry for making them feel safe and loved. We are truly molding them as we contribute to their personalities, habits, beliefs, and memories. I see the importance of discipline and rules on a daily basis, but I also see the importance of loving them as Jesus loves us. What I mean by this is not growing frustrated with them, having a God-given endless supply of patience, praying over them, and most of all, making them feel as loved and secure as we possibly can. Since our heavenly Father’s most shining examples to us are love and grace, shouldn’t that be what we strive to show children above all else?
So I would just like to encourage all of you to give the special little one(s) in your life a hug, because you never know how much it will mean to them later.