I was in the town centre (where our church is located) and walking along, minding my own business, when I heard a small voice enthusiastically say, “Hello!”
I looked down and there was a girl, probably about 7 years old, grinning and waving at me…
Immediately her horrified mother dragged her away, looking at me suspiciously. My knee-jerk response had been to say, “Hello,” (which I did) but before I could say anything else the moment and the family had passed.
You see the child was not from our church or connected to us. Her mother would have had no idea at all who this strange man was whom her daughter was joyfully greeting. I think, as I was still trying to work out what had happened, I heard her mother anxiously ask her who I was, but I didn’t hear the girl’s reply.
I suspect that the girl was someone who has been in the regular school assemblies I have taken at one of our local primary schools. She recognised me (even without Stew the Rabbit) and naturally wanted to greet me. To her it was the natural thing to do – I am part of her school experience. As far as she is concerned she knows me.
To her mother I am an unknown man whom her daughter was happily greeting in a way that may have aroused all sorts of fears… As far as she is concerned she doesn’t know me and she wants to know how her daughter does know me.
I am disappointed that the moment passed so quickly that I didn’t have an opportunity to explain myself and allay the mother’s fears. I am disappointed that I don’t know for sure where that young girl had met me.
But I hope and pray that God will redeem the situation. I hope and pray that the girl’s reply will have allayed her mother’s natural fears. I hope and pray that she may even have remembered something that Stew the Rabbit and I shared with the school about living as a follower of Jesus, and that she then shared that with her mother.
We must do all we can to protect our children and vulnerable adults from those who would exploit and harm them. But please God may we never find ourselves in a situation where childhood innocence, joy, exuberance and excitement are completely erased in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to protect children.
After all, Jesus told adults to become like children, not the other way around!
Be blessed, be a blessing.