The many news stories we see about children displaced from their families, living in refugee camps, or faced with war-torn homes pull at our heartstrings. Can these children still have a future with promise, despite the physical and emotional trials they encounter?
I’ve found encouragement in a story in the Hebrew Scripture about the resilience of a young girl who was abducted by invading enemy soldiers. She was carried off to a foreign nation, where she served as a slave for the wife of Naaman, an army captain (see II Kings 5:1-14). In a situation where it might be expected that a child would be traumatized, this girl felt self-assured enough to speak up with a bold suggestion: She said Naaman could be healed of a degenerative skin disease if he was willing to go to Israel and meet with the prophet Elisha.
Naaman heeded her suggestion, and though it took a profound lesson in humility on his part, he was ultimately healed. The actions of that young girl, who might have been trivialized as one more destitute child, actually raised the moral and physical standard of the adults around her.
The story of this little slave girl inspires my prayers for the many children around the world today who are experiencing things children shouldn’t have to even know about, let alone go through. Like Naaman, might we have important lessons of humility and healing to learn by listening to and caring about the voices of the world’s children? And like the little Hebrew maid seemed to do, might not children today also be able to maintain their innocence, integrity, and virtue uncorrupted and unsullied despite disturbing experiences?
These are qualities of resilience and survival. Most important, they are spiritual qualities inherent in each of us, including children. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, and our purity is innate and inviolable because it permeates our spiritual identity, maintained by God. When we read of displaced children around the world today, we can do better than simply pity them. Our efforts to help can include embracing them in our prayers, affirming that what is spiritually true of them can’t be taken away.
And it is not only children whose innocence needs to be preserved. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor and herself a philanthropist to children’s causes, once told a mainly adult audience to be more childlike. She said: “Beloved children, the world has need of you, – and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 110).
Every person, including children in crisis today, has the ability to feel God’s loving presence. This inspires resilience, courage, and other qualities that lead toward a brighter future.