The Disney Effect

The resonance came as a surprise! Something about China captured my imagination and interest at a deep, visceral level. I’ve had the very good fortune of visiting many more countries than I could ever have imagined as a kid. But China was different, unique, unforeseen despite my eagerness to go.

Lingering impressions continue to resonate during these days since my return. The Great Wall, the terra-cotta warriors of Xian — so much about this ancient culture — predates the birth of Jesus. How could such an impactful immersion in another culture not color the way I experienced Christmas this year.

Certainly an especially impactful ingredient was going with my 14 year-old grandnephew. Except for James, it was a pretty “mature” bunch of 25 in our tour group. Seeing his jaw drop, attempting to keep up with his pace, witnessing his insatiable curiosity, marveling at his perfectly expressed one-word sentences enhanced my experience beyond measure.

What is it about the young and old together? Unbridled energy, their sponge-like capacity to absorb facts catalyze with our more sedate wisdom and broader perspective regarding the singular and the paradoxical. We need both! Each is exponentially enhanced by the other. Call it the “Disney effect” — that which grandparents report when they accompany their grandchildren to Disneyland.

Much of this came rushing back today when reading one of my favorite blogs. Kayla McClurg offers a fresh, relevant and insightful reflection on today’s Gospel from the Common Lectionary. Yes, the finding of Jesus in the Temple brought me back to my China adventure with James.

Perhaps you will recognize a familiar but unforeseen connection in your relationship with the indispensable young people in your life:

The common idea is that children have much to learn from us, and should be always taking our direction and listening to our wisdom, but we adults have much to learn from and about our children as well. What a difference it makes to pause and listen. What might they be trying to communicate through their wayward words and actions. What looks like mischief might be an emerging creativity; what sounds like ‘talking back’ could be the clumsy beginnings of deeply felt expression; what seem to be displays of disobedience might be signs of their listening to inner guidance. Or not. We can never be sure. We can only be companions to the mystery, a steady presence, guiding by walking alongside.

“Why were you searching for me?” Jesus asks his bewildered parents. “Did you not know where I must be?” To really know the children in our lives is to search continually for them, to lose sight and then to rediscover who they are now. It is to want to know them more, to ask them what matters most, to listen at least as much as we talk. To know them is to enter the temple of their lives and care about their worries and wonders. Because children are not only our future . . . children are our right now. We need each other. What they see and say matter. We are called to do God’s business together.


Kayla McClurg’s full reflection from which her quote is taken may be found [here]. I recommend her blog, Inward/Outward.  You may sign-up to receive weekly emails with this link.

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