Thursday, October 18, 2007

Teach Your Children Well ?

The Whole World Over
by Julia Glass

I really enjoyed Julia Glass's first novel, Three Junes, a couple of years ago. It won the National Book Award. Wonder how many writers get a wonderful gift like that their first time out. However, The Whole World Over is better. The story is deeper and her detail work is amazing. I find myself reading it really slowly - not because it is boring or the story doesn't move, but just to savor her prose.

I am not finished with The Whole World Over yet, so other things may come to mind that I want to think and/or write about. There are so many interesting things going on here relationally - there is rich dialogue that communicates so effectively the ways that we human beings hurt one another without meaning to, often with the best of intentions. The loose connections that continue to bind people together, even in a world that is increasingly fragmented, are also shown in subtle ways. Major and minor characters meet (collide?), separate, and then show up again later in configurations that the reader was not expecting.

There is also an adorable child character, a little boy named George, who seems to represent the innate spiritual awareness of children. George has an awareness of and compassion for animals and all of creation that are far beyond his years .Although being raised by secular parents, he brings God into conversations and asks questions about God as if it is a given that God exists and is intimately involved in the world. His mother is puzzled by this - Where does he get this? she asks herself.

I wonder if the more appropriate question would be When do we lose that? When do we begin to censor our spiritual impulses? When do we cease to assume that there is someone or something out there who is greater than all of us put together? Children amaze me with what they seem to absorb about the love of God and the world around them, seemingly without effort. I hope we can help them keep their sense of awe and wonder for as long as possible. Maybe children should teach the adults in church, instead of the other way around. Logistically, that would be tough, but we grown-ups would learn some amazing things.

Case in point: A few months ago I was putting my older son to bed one night. I usually encourage him to join me in a short prayer, thanking God for the good things about the day and praying for help and guidance with the things we are worried about. Sometimes my firstborn is cooperative and open during this time, other times not so much. This particular night he was being a pill. "I don't want to pray tonight," he said. "You go ahead." He then proceeded to play with his etch-a-sketch while I prayed. Mom was irritated, her teachable moment ruined.

However, after kissing him goodnight I was on my way out of the room when he stopped me. "Mommy?" "What?" I asked (somewhat impatiently, I am ashamed to admit. I thought this was a stalling tactic.) "You know," he said "There is only one God, but he's (sic) in everybody's heart." So much for Mommy's "teachable" moment!

Reverent Reader

P.S. For those interested, there is an article in the October 17 Washington Post Style Section about the Peace Concert at the National Cathedral (see previous post).


At 10/18/07, 7:25 PM , Anonymous Pam said...

Loved this one!!! Read 3 Junes after it because I felt I had to -- had not been able to finish it when I first started it. Whole World is so good -- don't want to say too much about it since you haven't finished it but loved all the characters. I think it can stand alone without having to read the first one. Loved the story about your boy!!!! That's not the first wonderful thing he's said.....and I know it won't be the last!


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