What a 9 year old boy would like to teach you today …
Shortly after the safety pin meme got attention, there was predictable criticism, maybe a little cynicism. But this story from my friend Christy has a message and lesson for us all this week. “A little child shall lead them.”
Just days after the election of Donald Trump, the safety pin began showing up everywhere. Borrowed from the Brexit movement, the idea was that it would indicate who was a “safe person” in these days marked by vitriol and public displays of hatred towards entire people groups. As with all things, there were thoughtful criticisms of the safety pin movement as well as thoughtful justifications for it. When our son, Charles, heard about the safety pin, he immediately attached one to his shirt. For a small nine year old with a big sensitive heart and eyes to see, it seemed absolutely imperative to wear this pin.He insisted it would not only let other kids on the playground know that if they were being teased or bullied he was a safe kid to run to, but that it would also be an important reminder to himself that if he saw anyone being teased or bullied, he should step in and stand beside them, and with them, and for them.
For the first few days it seemed as if the glint of the safety pin was catching my eye on many people in many places. This outward show of support swelled quickly and then faded away just as fast, as most fads do. But for my small nine year old with a big heart and eyes to see, it remained an important reminder of the kind of person he is striving to be in these times. He is so insistent that now more than ever we need to make our kindness known, that nearly two months later, not a day has gone by without this now tarnished little safety pin attached to his shirt.
A few weeks in, he began to worry that people would be so used to his safety pin they would no longer see it, or that he might begin to forget it was there, so he began attaching two— just in case. Just to be sure.
Alongside of eating breakfast and teeth-brushing, fastening these pins has become a daily part of his morning regiment. He even attaches them to his pajamas at night, as if perhaps the people he encounters in his dreams might somehow need him. The pin holes in his shirts have begun to widen and stretch and warp the fabric. But he looks past these blemishes and continues to insist on the necessity of the daily piercing of the pins.
As his mother, I don’t wear a safety pin. I confess, I did for a week or so like many others who were swept up in the passing fad. But I do pray to be open to receiving the spirit of kindness that my nine year old son teaches me daily. I ask for the moral courage to take seriously the hardships that are already unfolding for those around me in these uncertain times. May God give me eyes to see and a heart whose kindness will be willing to step in regardless of the cost to self.
My hope is that a growing number of us will continue to realize – as this nine year old boy has – the kind of people we are called to be in these times. May we enter the spaces of our lives with our eyes wide open and remain steadfast in our conviction to be people who step up and step in, people who love generously in hateful situations and who embody light in dark places regardless of how stretched out we may sometimes feel.