This past Sunday, the sermon given at the church we attend resonated with me. And parts of it are still lingering in my mind. And I wanted to share a little bit of it.
Rev. Schmitz first shared a story about her first ride on It's a Small World at age 5, and said this about it (the part in bold is what stands out most to me):
Some seemed a little bewildered when I told them it was going to make me cry. I was not known in the congregation for being particularly prone to weepiness. So, how did I know I would cry? I got weepy just looking at the pictures on the Internet in preparation for the trip.
Now why this reaction? Why this particular pilgrimage?
It has to do with a summer 45 years earlier when I went with my family to the New York World’s Fair. I was 5 years old. And that ride is just perfect for a 5 year old.
I grew up in a small town in southern New Hampshire. There was no, and I really mean no, ethnic or racial diversity. “It’s a Small World” was a picture for me of a different world. And better yet, the singing dolls from around the world were all happy and getting along.
Yes, the stereotypes and caricatures are a problem. But at age 5 that did not matter.
And at 45 the ride still called to me. I believe that this is because of the timing of my first exposure to it.
Had I been 3 or 8 or 23 or 38 it might not have mattered.
But at 5, it made a lifelong impact on what I expect of the world. I expect the world to be diverse and colorful and I expect people to be able to get along.
Childhood experiences can have a lasting impact.
Then at the end of the sermon, she says:
I shared my 5-year old “Small World” experience as a way of highlighting that childhood experience matters. Each of us can consider how our basic assumptions about the world have been influenced by experiences earlier in life. But we can do more. We can consider the children in our lives and in our world today.
Last week at an event called the Francis David Café, one of the things that we talked about was the gifts we brought with us from our early religious experiences. It was interesting to me that in our small group we had several examples of quite opposite experiences. For instance: One person recalled having examples of people in their religious community living their belief, examples of integrity. Another person recalled seeing the opposite and saw people behaving as hypocrites.
It raises the question: What examples will our children recall when they think back to their experiences here? How will they remember their parents, their teachers, the person sitting beside them in worship, or helping them in the pot luck line. How are their experiences of the world shaping them? What can we do to increase the chances that our children will have experiences that shape their world view for the better? Experiences that will make them stronger, more compassionate, more resilient in the face of all that life will bring their way. I close with an invitation to one last moment of reflection...
...A moment of reflection on how you might help create the opportunity for spirituality in our children. I invite you to think of a child close to you or to the children who are part of this congregation. For the well-being of all children, is the well being of the world.
(If you're interested in reading the entire sermon, it can be found here.)
I don't yet have a response to the reflection at the end of the sermon. But it is food for thought.