Sunday, February 04, 2007

Children, Chopsticks and Change

I had the privilege of meeting a very interesting 88 year old man this week. He was referred to me for treatment of his sciatica, and when I went to the retirement home to visit him, he was confined to his room with a cold. He was sorting through some old photos in a room cluttered with numerous books, magazines, a computer, scanner, an old autoharp, and other things that demonstrated his creativity and ongoing quest for knowledge.
This Welshman had spent his childhood in Angola where his father ran a mission that included a church, school and hospital. After he finished university in Canada, he returned to Angola until the Portugese Colonial War forced the mission to close in the early 1960’s. Angola has had many years of violence since he left the country. It achieved independence from Portugal in April 1974 and then was devastated by a 27 year civil war where over 500,000 people were killed. The Soviet Union, China and United States all had stakes in the conflict, so in truth, it was an extension of the Cold War. The war ended formally in 2002 and the country is trying to establish a democratic government.

My patient has kept in touch with friends in Angola over the years. He is proud of the fact that some children who attended the mission school over 40 years ago are now working in the new government. He sees the seeds of knowledge and the values taught many years ago now bearing fruit in a positive way.

I have taught Sunday School for over 25 years and have watched many children grow to adulthood, establishing careers, starting their own families, and becoming responsible citizens. Children cannot help but learn and are like sponges, absorbing whatever they hear and experience. I love the enthusiasm with which they explore new ideas and how changes that come with maturity are readily embraced. It is so important for youth to see beyond themselves and to interact with a world that is changing rapidly.

Today we talked about the countries in South East Asia. I took some sticky rice, fish sauce, lime and Asian hot chili sauce to church and the children had a great time trying to eat with chopsticks. They were engaged, eager participants who posed good questions and thoughtful answers in our discussion.

I am currently reading The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. He describes a tiny world, flattened by globalization, free trade and technology. My patient is living in a vastly different world than the one he entered almost a century ago. He has kept pace with change, believing that he has made a difference in the lives of people he has touched over the years.

These children will have to adapt to the rapid change that is already happening. Some will be on the crest of the wave of change, and others will be following their leaders. Every one of them is beautiful and gifted in a special God-given way.


  1. I have always been amazed of the children who seem to absorb information as "sponges". They are not *biased* and have their minds open to the wonders of the world. Nice post, Ruth!

  2. Anonymous9:50 pm GMT-5

    I think it is really important to learn from our elders but equally important to learn from the unbias innocence of children. I love when you share your little daily adventures like this, they always bring a smile to my face and in that way I am learning from you too!

  3. Mary- Children are generally open and honest and that is admirable, even though they can embarrass us at times with their frankness.

    Jaspenelle- I think it is unfortunate that our society tends to separate people by age. Nurseries, senior's centres, schools would benefit from allowing interactions with people of all ages. I learn from you too! :)


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