A Stone’s Throw (by George Tyger)
“But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
As I rode through Kandahar City the other day I saw a naked dust covered kid playing along the road. That was not a strange thing, we see that a lot here. It was when he picked up a large rock and hurled it at the truck that I wondered aloud, “WTF! Who lets their kid run around naked throwing rocks? What kind of place is this?”
As I heard the impact of the rock, a verse came into my head, But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Could this child be one of those who will show me the Kingdom of Heaven? Is this the child Jesus saw when he said let the children come to me?
Years of war and violence have produced a perversely unique system where hurling rocks at US Soldiers is a legitimate sport. It is easy to become cynical, even contemptuous of those kids who throw rocks. That said, being in combat has taught me I must not allow our anger numb my compassion. In a place like this compassion for a dirty rock-throwing kid is all that keeps us human.
Imagine if your entire world, from your first breaths, were a closely circumscribed existence defined by poverty, war, death, dirt and dust. How would you perceive the world around you? How different would you be? Maybe rock throwing would not seem so strange.
My son has in an Army Brat. Much of his life has been spent on military bases. He has grown up seeing men in uniform as “the good guys” not a threat. He has never been exposed to the violence of war where men in uniform must to unthinkable things to save their own lives and the lives of their comrades. When his bunny rabbit died he cried for a day and buried it in the back yard. That is as close to death as he has ever been. He takes a hot bath every night. He has ice-cold water, juice, and soda for the taking. His world is secure, reliable, and good. I miss him terribly, but I go to sleep each night with the knowledge that he is happy, safe, and loved
That kid with the rock has never known the world my son takes for granted. His world is not secure, reliable, and good. It is dangerous, uncertain and rough. His father cannot sleep knowing his son will be safe overnight. Explosions and gunfire ring out across the city every night. Still, that kid knows how to throw rocks. It is one certain thing in an uncertain world. So that is what he does. Understanding this my response is – must be – compassion; compassion for a child who seeks to hurt me; compassion for a child who is no less a child of God than my own son.
I cannot change his world, but I can, – I must – try to understand it. Otherwise, a kid with a rock is just one more kind of enemy instead of the person he really is: a kid who, like my own son, only wants to be happy, safe, and loved.
Chaplain (CPT) George Tyger is a Unitarian Universalist minister and US Army Chaplain currently serving in Kandahar Afghanistan. Prior to becoming a Chaplain, he served civilian churches since 1993. You can reach him at email@example.com.