Monday, December 17, 2012


David Freedman, right, kneels with his son Zachary, 9,
as they visit a sidewalk memorial for the Sandy Hook Elementary
School shooting victims in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
I can't help looking at the first and second graders I see with their parents.  In the past I noticed young children in a general way, but did not focus on them.

Until now.

The tragic murder of 20 first-graders and six adults last Friday has stunned us all, and has caused us to realize how young and innocent such children are.

Yesterday afternoon I was in downtown Los Angeles and saw the great movie, Lincoln.  The theater is part of the L.A. Live complex, and there were several thousand people walking around, some ice-skating on the annual rink, others shopping, and still others taking in the fabulous Christmas decorations.

Most of the people were families, and many with small children--and many first graders in the mix.  I noticed these young people like never before.  I even found myself counting them--I would count up to 20, say a prayer, and start counting again.  What a precious 20.

Several things struck me about these families and small children.  How small first graders really are.  How joyous their faces and their laughter.  Their innocence.  Their obvious longing for Christmas to come.  And the special way their parents were holding on to them--obviously in response to Friday's tragedy.

Several thoughts from the Bible came as well.  "Let us make man and woman in our image and likeness," God speaks in the book of Genesis.  "Let the small children come to me," Jesus tells us in the Gospels.  "Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God," Jesus warns us. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

I doubt if my emotional and spiritual experiences being around first graders now is any different from yours.  We see them with fresh eyes; we love them ever more deeply; and we now scan their surroundings to make sure they are safe.  A new instinctive care and concern for young children is taking hold among us.  A work of the Holy Spirit.

May these 20 Little Angels, and the 6 Big Angels ask God to have mercy upon all of us, and to lead us forward with a new love and appreciation for such great gifts.