I got all these homeless people living with me in the House of God (aka Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners), but they are all Two Year Olds and younger. You might think that is just a waaaaaaay different category of homelessness, and you’d be right, but it’s not as different as it seems. The overlap of commonality is far bigger than it appears until you look closely.
I have played host to both homeless children and homeless adults, and I can say with confidence that the level of responsibility required for keeping kids is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay higher. All the other differences are small by comparison. The only guests who have never stolen from us are the smallest ones, but then they are the ones who require the most minute-by-minute attention too, so even there, the honest perspective tempers the differences.
So with the commonality being so much more than it would seem from the outside looking in, I start thinking just how far this dynamic goes. I mean, are there things I can say about adults based on the experience with children that might prove important? And sure enough, as I think about it, some things begin to surface that I want to share.
These toddlers run and jump and fall down A LOT. They are both fragile and rugged at the same time. When they fall, and I hear the thud, I immediately think to myself, “Oh no! That had to hurt!” And sure enough, sometimes it does. But I have learned not to charge in to quickly, but rather to wait for the cry. The cry is a better indicator of how bad the booboo actually hurts than the sound of the thud.
I say this because sometimes the thud resonates in my bones and even scares me. When I react in that moment, the sound of fear and care in my voice communicates to the child that they should cry, and I should make a big production of fixing the booboo for them. And the little ones oblige! They don’t disappoint. The crying gets underway, and the fixing turns into a big production, and we all share this big rollercoaster ride of pain and fear and salvation. It is rather dramatic.
But IF you wait for the cry before voicing your fear and care, it turns out that the homeostasis of the social atmosphere tempers the pain the child may (or may not) be experiencing. It’s actually alarming how often the terrifying thud does NOT produce the cry, but the child shakes it off and goes right back to playing.
This, of course, is a judgment call – one the shepherd of the sheep learns to make. And like all judgment calls, it is more an art than a science, you can judge wrong quite easily. No one makes perfect judgment calls every time. And I would say it is important to err on the side of caution where safety is concerned. A legitimate injury met with indifference is the worst possible outcome (and could land me in jail!). But at this level of judging, the cry is almost always an accurate indicator.
But then there is the response. In all the booboos I have ever faced (and there have been a few high risk situations), none of them ever required EMS activation. I did take a child to the ER a couple of times in the past for complications with an on-going medical issue, but out of all the run/jump/falls that ever occurred here at FBHWOS, not one has required so much as a Band-Aid (yet).
Quite literally, 100% of the booboos we have had to fix in this ministry have amounted to a Kiss-It-And-Make-It-Better emergency.
Seriously, it’s practically miraculous!
Kiss It And Make It Better – Wow!
What power is there in a kiss, a hug, a gentle touch?
It’s amazing how much ATTENTION people need from each other. If my kids sense they are not getting my attention, after a while they begin to cry. Somebody hit somebody; somebody got bit. Someone took someone’s toy. The social order breaks down, and the children get mean.
If, on the other hand, I walk in the room where the children are gathered, I am a rock star! They come running. If I get down on the floor on all fours, the giggling and smiles takeover every face!
And a lot of the time, that scary sounding thud that sent a chill through my bones, the one that lets out the cry, well, a lot of the time, that kiss and hug make all the difference.
And it occurs to me that what I am describing here is WORSHIP!
Yeah, the word “worship” in English comes from the old language which contracted and dropped the “th” from the middle some generations back. But it used to be “worthship” It means to express value – worth. How much is this worth? We know by watching you shell out your sacrifice of worthship. (Frequently, this means money.)
In the Bible, the word “worship” means to bow down (like bowing before royalty), but it also means “kiss”. There are levels and dynamics to biblical worship that go beyond the scope of this post, but they are all related, nonetheless. But it helps us to think about kissing and about the image of God to see into the mysteries of what is happening when we Kiss It And Make It Better.
Way back at the beginning, God created the humans IN HIS IMAGE, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD HE CREATED THEM MALE AND FEMALE.
Now, of course the “male and female” part implies a bit more than just kissing, but we will dial back our analysis just a bit and stick with the kissing, which almost certainly plays a role in that more robust sense of bearing God’s image. And the thing is this: we kiss those whom we value most.
Oh sure, there are social cues we live by in America today that limit our kissing in various social situations in ways other cultures do not observe, but kissing someone in our culture still expresses value, even if there are other ways to express it for various people in various situations.
My point is this: Whether or not we do a good job of representing God’s image in the world, when we sense we are being valued by others, we are lifted out of our pain. When we express the value and demonstrate our worthship of others, whether or not they do a good job of representing God’s image in the world, we lift them up out of their pain (at least in part). And kissing plays a part in this worthship process.
In fact, the converse is also remarkably powerful. When these image bearers are ignored, and other objects replace them as more worthy of value (worship), then the whole world suffers for it (especially those we ignore).
It is no mistake that Jesus identifies himself with the poor, the stranger, the needy. Want to make the world a better place? Show these people you value them like as if they were Jesus himself! The whole world will benefit from this Worship in Spirit and Truth!
Now… sometimes the appropriate response is to activate EMS. Sometimes you need to hold job training seminar and the AA meetings. Sometimes the elaborate response is called for and needed. It’s not like mere decoration is going to fix it. BUT… it is amazing the extent kissing it makes it better!
I really think this is why Jesus tells us, in Luke 14, to party with the poor!
Seriously, when you go out on the streets and alleys and beat the hedgerows and compel the poor to come in to the party, WORSHIP happens! Correct worship. Good worship. Godly worship. Jesus, in the least of these, gets valued. And that is right at the nub of what is wrong with the world in the first place.
Think about it.
And then kiss it and make it better.