I told my nephew he is the luckiest boy in the world.
I told him this as he started crying. It was feeding time, or nap time, or something-other-than-what-he-was-just-doing time.
And so, in an attempt to get him to stop crying, I told my 3-month-old nephew he had nothing to cry about.
I told him he was lucky to have parents who loved him and who would give him everything he would ever need: a loving home, good education, quality health care, extracurricular activities, travel opportunities.
I told him he was fortunate to have grandparents who would spoil him with their unconditional love and would take an active interest in his life.
I told him he was blessed to be born in Iowa with a network of teachers and coaches and community of small town America. Not only a safety net catching him if he were to fall, but a trampoline propelling him upward into life. The more he bounced into this rich network of resources, the higher he would fly.
I told him he was lucky to be born in the United States of America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world … that he was lucky to be of European descent, with a skin color granting him privilege and access.
Above all, I told him he was blessed that in just a few days he would be baptized into the Christian faith in the same rural Iowa Lutheran parish his German immigrant Great-great-great-grandfather had helped establish exactly 160 years earlier. The 5th generation Pipho in the United States, my nephew is the recipient of a strong and durable legacy of faith.
My nephew inherits social, spiritual, and financial wealth.
He certainly has nothing to cry about.
Other boys and girls, however, are not so lucky. Born on the same day as my nephew, these boys and girls in the United States, and around the world, inherit social, spiritual, and financial poverty.
They will grow up in homes where mental or physical illness, drug or alcohol addiction, emotional and physical abuse, or citizenship status, steal away one or both of their parents.
They will grow up in homes where job loss or underemployment or mounting debt causes hairline fractures to grow into full breaks ripping families apart.
They will grow up in broken communities where the safety net is shattered by poisoned drinking water, crumbling schools, abandoned factories, and bankrupt city governments. All presided over by inept and scandalous public servants.
Other babies have skin colors that will arouse suspicions in others and shut off paths to prosperity. Others are born in exploited countries trapped in a global economic system that funnels money, resources, and opportunity away from them.
I told my nephew, and this I didn’t expect him to understand because even adults have a hard time comprehending, that he could either use his luck to serve himself, or he could use it to serve others.
Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32).
Love that is a true credit to our faith, not only loves and serve our flesh and blood children, it loves and serves all children.
Might a shared and common commitment to the children of the United States provide a newfound sense of unity and purpose in this time of divisive political rhetoric and polarization?
Might Democrat and Republican agree that everything we wish for our own children, everything we work so hard to provide them, should be granted as a right to our neighbor’s children?
Might liberal and conservative agree that America’s true greatness is found in the depth of our treatment of our country’s children and the families that raise them?
Might Tea Party and Green Party agree that strengthening the social fabric that reinforces and supplements the work of families in raising children should be a national priority second to none?
Such a commitment would not just extend blessing to children. As parents know, their duties do not end with adulthood, but requires the love of a lifetime. A society prioritizing love of children soon recognizes its children are not just the youngest in society, but that all of its citizens are worthy of love as children of parents, as children of a heavenly God.
In the noble commitment to making the lives of all children as great as possible, our children can lead us, not just in a few decades when they assume power, but right now in our efforts to create a world of safety and prosperity in which they can thrive.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6).
Thank you, nephew, for crying. You thought your crying would bring you a bottle or a nap. In fact, it might just bring healing to the world.