I went to the production of Into the Woods at Collegiate School a couple weeks ago. It was outstanding! I was so impressed with the students and how they handled a challenging musical, both in music and in topic. There is a song that is sung near the end of the show, “Children Will Listen.” Here are some of the lyrics:
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see
Guide them along the way
Children will glisten
Children will look to you
For which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say
“Listen to me”
Children will listen
Stephen Sondheim wrote these words 29 years ago. Yet this text is a timely reminder in this season of division in our country. Many are upset at the election results that happened nine days ago. Some people are upset that others are upset. I have heard rude comments, and much worse since the results have been made official. I understand. I understand being upset. I understand and hear the fears and worries. I understand the need to let your voice be heard and protest. My mother used to say to my brother and me, “You can feel however you want, but there are certain things you can and cannot do.” We all share this space called the United States, and our children are looking to us at how we respond both when things go our way and when they don’t. Our children are listening to the words we use and are watching how we treat people who are very different from us. If the children around you were to repeat the last few words you said, what would they be?
Jesus had some harsh words to say to those who cause little ones to stumble: ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” It is a scary reminder that we have a responsibility to the little ones in our midst.
Another part of Sondheim’s song is “Children may not obey, but children will listen.” Children are watching and listening to what we do.
One of my friends reminded me of a hymn written by Marty Haugen in 1994, “Let Us Build a House.” The first stanza is:
Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
May the words our children hear be ones of welcome, forgiveness, and love. They are listening.