After church on Sunday, I drove to Raleigh to see my parents. The three of us had such a nice time doing Skaggs-ish things, talking about how hilarious and delightful all the children related to us are, retelling old stories that we know by heart, working puzzles in the newspaper as we ate our cereal, and walking around the neighborhood, monitoring our steps on various fitbits and health apps on our phones.
And then my mom brought out the box.
My daughter Sarah had been through the box recently on a trip to her grandma’s house, so mom still had it out in the guest room. We opened the box and out spilled my childhood.
It’s funny what sticks in your brain about your childhood. I hate to admit it, but when people ask me about my childhood, what comes to mind first (though I keep it to myself) are the rough parts- like the time my third grade class somehow lost their minds and elected me, the shyest girl in the class, class president, and then promptly began impeachment proceedings when I was too embarrassed to use the mallet to call the class to order. (The fact that me and President Nixon were twinsies at the time was no comfort to me, I assure you.) I remember teasing and mean girls and praying that recess would be over before my turn came up at kickball. I was a very sensitive child, and traveling out beyond my yard on Sandia Drive often skinned and bruised my soft heart.
But when Momma opened that box Saturday afternoon, I saw the real deal.
I saw a Mom who lifted me up so I could see the hollyhocks face to face.
And a dad who loved nothing better to let me laugh on his belly.
I saw a brother whom I claimed as MINE,
and days full of wonder and contemplation.
I saw plenty of wandering and lollygagging and discovery.
It’s what every child needs and deserves, like fresh air and food to eat and a safe place to curl up at night.
I looked at what came out of that box and sighed with gratitude.
And then I read a story on my phone and another picture came to mind. I bet you know this one.
It’s a photo of Omran Daqneesh, a five year old pulled out of a building August 17 in Aleppo, Syria, after an air strike there.
I look at little Omran and I hear the hymn we enjoyed in church Sunday
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
I sing the song to myself and feel the lump in my throat rise for Omran and thousands like him, children who should have plenty of lovely pictures in their mothers’ boxes or minds, pictures of play and contemplation, of wondering and wandering.
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)
O Lord, hear our prayers, for peace for their land and ours, for courage to ignore fearmongering and be the people you call us to be, welcoming strangers, looking for your eyes in theirs.