It is devastating to find a special memento in pieces on the floor, and a little child standing over it. Whether it be the result of curiosity, being entranced by the sounds or sights, or simple immaturity, children and fragile (and sometimes not-so-fragile) pieces of memorabilia do not go well together. In our household over the years, I can remember at least four special pieces which are no longer quite the same, and at least one which was beyond repair.
The value of such pieces is much more than the purchase or replacement value: they embody stories and experiences of life which are symbolised in the artifact, along with the special beauty which attracted us to it in the first place. The ebullience of children in the house sometimes overflows…
But given the choice between inanimate objects and the presence of children, I know which I would prefer. Both embody memories and hopes, but in a battle of relationships between people and objects, I would choose children. Inanimate objects are much easier to control, much more limited in their place, and do not argue about anything! But neither are they capable of expressing love and joy, nor of the unique and spontaneous expression which is characteristic of children.
I am not alone in saying that I too have been frustrated by the interruptions, over-enthusiasm and unbridled energy which sometimes results in the destruction of precious ornaments, let alone the interruption to important matters on which my mind is focused.
The danger we face is the perversion of value, where we do not recognise the greater value of relationships over objects. One of the burning complaints about our present society is the dehumanization which has occurred in the workplace and in many institutions which we have held relationships with: (take banks as an example). That we have been turned into an object (a ‘human resource’ or an ‘account’) is a basic cause of the angst and alienation which we feel. We all sense that the dollar is more important than the person.
Such is not to deny a sense of loss felt when something valuable is destroyed, but to affirm that something much more valuable exists, and to be part of building that. Having spent ten agonising years waiting for children, in the heat of the moment one can still be tempted to forget what is more important.
How much more difficult it is to remember in the context of wider community. No wonder the stunned comment on the early church by the people was “See how these christians love one another!” May it be true of us also.
May 11, 2003