Kids love me because I love them first. Ever since I was a kid myself, I’ve done what I could for the vulnerable – all those folks who can’t stand tall enough to reach the table and help themselves to the bounty of the laid-out feast. Most tables in most places are built with grown-up legs in mind. If you don’t help kids grab a bite or adjust the offering to their height, they’ll go hungry.
Given that they named me the patron saint of children, I figured it my duty to compose this letter. It has to do with the gift of a future. Many, too many, kids these days want that gift but can’t quite believe they’re going to get it. They see the years ahead like a Christmas tree still up by in the living room mid-January: just a naked tower of dry branches with a carpet of brown needles below. All dangerously flammable. Climate change, dead coral reefs, forest and meadow under unforgiving concrete, top soil at the bottom of polluted rivers…all this makes kids today very nervous. They don’t play house much anymore, because they’re afraid of how our common home is going to look by the time they’re potential parents. Last year a study of 15,000 kids from 10 different countries showed that 45% of them already feel that climate change makes their life worse on a daily basis. They also feel betrayed by us, the adults. We’re not doing much at all to gift them a present free of shadows. This is bad news for everyone.
You know that kids like to write me. You sometimes encourage them to do it. Increasingly, I receive requests for a hospitable tomorrow and thereafter. For a planet able to provide good food and company. These letters break my heart. But even more painful is the dearth of mail coming my way these days. Kids write me less because they don’t believe I can help. They see my beard and think I’m part of the problem. That’s not unreasonable, given their unhappy experience with adults. But it’s terribly sad, both for me and for them.
So let’s try something different this year. Let’s take the giving of the future seriously. Let’s not patronize the little ones, or project on them our own disappointed childhood, or dismiss their deepest wish: a beautiful home for many generations. Sit down with a kid, yours or someone else’s, and listen for what they really want. And talk to them about how that could be given. Not by you alone. But by this whole world-wide community of believers in goodness, justice, health and love.
God bless us all. We need God’s blessing. Equally we need to bless.
Greg Kennedy writes poetry, practices spiritual direction and runs ecologically grounded retreats at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario. He has published with Novalis three volumes of Reupholstered Psalms and Amazing Friendships Between Animals and Saints. His prayer is unconventional but, he trusts, unconditionally faithful.