The power of children

By Scott Collins

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – I watched children of all ages do some amazing things today.

Encompassed in their inviting world of imagination, I watched them fly and do miracles. They soared through the air with no care, giggling all the way. I saw them help a friend be healed, simply by lowering him on a bed sheet through a roof.

Children have tremendous powers. But their greatest power is seen not in what they can do, but in what they can get otherwise sane adults to do.

Take a normal adult, put him or her in an orphanage anywhere in the world and see what happens. Men and women who spend their days back home being mostly normal and serious are suddenly transformed into twirling, spinning machines, propelling children in circles. They let little boys and girls, jabbering in undecipherable tongues plaster their faces with silly stickers. And then they laugh about it and pose for photos that eventually end up on Facebook, Twitter and in a magazine.

Embarrassed? Not in the least. Children have an undeniable power to make adults do strange things.

“Working with kids becomes a direct reminder of all the things they had growing up and that most of their best memories of childhood have little to do with anything material,” says Susan Williams, director of missions for Buckner. “It makes it easy to jump in and play because they understand that they are creating happy memories for those kids, too.”

Matt Asato, who like Williams has seen his share of silliness, adds that adults on mission trips see children as offering a safe zone, “where an adult can be a kid. It’s a safe, known setting where an adult is ‘expected’ to be silly and do kid things. I think it’s especially true on a mission trip because the setting is just not kids, but poor kids, orphaned kids. There’s an innate need to make children smile; to see a bit of hope, a bit of Jesus.”

This strange and overwhelming power children have over adults may be the most cross-cultural, bilingual evidence that hope exists – for both the adult and the child.

“You can’t have kids not smiling, laughing or having fun. That’s just not allowed,” says Russ Dilday, associate vice president of public relations for Buckner, who has seen his share of children in all kinds of circumstances. “Kids and smiles go together. Nobody made a kid smile by acting like an adult, so you act like a kid.

“They’re laughing with me because I’m one of them,” Dilday adds. “They’re laughing because they know they’re loved. But they’re laughing. The best reward in the whole world is to see and hear children laugh. If Jesus ever asks me what I’ve done for the kingdom, I may lead with that.”

Good point. What would Jesus do?

The Gospel of Mark recounts the time people were bringing children to Jesus and the grumpy disciples told them to go away. But instead, Jesus encouraged the children to come on, even going so far as to say, “The kingdom of God belongs” to them.

So the next time you’re struggling or feeling out of sorts, try picking up a child and spinning circles. Just make sure you don’t get dizzy.

Scott Collins is the vice president of communications for Buckner International. He recently visited St. Petersburg, Russia, on a Shoes for Orphan Souls delivery trip.

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