Reflection by Evie Hao
I Will Learn To Eat Rocks
Elders are on my mind. My Mom will be 96 in Dec. In the last two months, I’ve attended wake services of an aunt, two uncles, and church friends, all in or beyond their 90’s. Their life stories are filled with hardship, disappointment, tragedy, and also with comfort, success, and happiness. They were steeped in life and savored it in full measure. Knowing their stories gives me joy and thankfulness.
Children are on my mind—children I know and love personally; children I cared for and loved as their teacher and principal; children I learn about through tragic news about school shootings from across the United States: Littleton, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida; Uvalde, Texas.
Fourth graders at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde are our most recent tragedy. Student lives were just beginning. Decades of life lay ahead. They were happy with loving families; they had plans for the future, dreams of someday becoming a veterinarian or a famous softball star. One already knew she wanted to be a marine biologist and had written a letter to Texas A & M University at Corpus Christi telling them to expect her in a few years. Tragically, unlike my uncles’ and aunt’s lives, the children’s many possibilities ended that day in May.
Since the first 1999 school shooting in Columbine, thousands of lives have been lost through gun violence. Innocent children and their care systems (parents, siblings, family, friends, teachers) have been destroyed by men with assault weapons meant for warfare.
Children are central in Jesus’ ministry. He made time to spend with children in order to bless them. When his disciples tried to keep the children from bothering him, he reminded them, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as them.” (Matthew 19: 14). In Matthew 18, Jesus said, “Except you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Children with their humility, openness, curiosity, and vulnerability are examples for us, the older and elder. Jesus also warns that one who harms a child deserves severe punishment.
In the Lord’s prayer is the phrase: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How do we bring heaven to earth? One way is by protecting and treasuring our children. Our children keep us, the older and the elder, reminded of our Father’s will; they keep us tied to qualities of heaven.
The Gospel calls us to action, to be agents of God’s peace, to protect our children and all who care for them. We can act through unceasing prayers with legs that take us to meet and connect with our church friends, neighbors, larger community, and decision makers. Jesus is our example. He walked the paths around and beyond his home to bring healing and life to others and to challenge leaders of that day.
So that our children may continuously tie us to heaven, so that they, in turn, live to fulfill their dreams — we, the older and elder, must possess the grit described in this poem to remove the immovable obstacles.
Oh, my dear ones.
I know you were hoping for a once-and-done.
For an earthquake, a tidal wave.
Hoping that if we give it our all, a single push would be enough.
I confess, in the secret corners of my heart,
I wanted to believe it could be that easy
That justice would emerge as from an egg
Fully grown—not with wet down and weak wings….
We are chipping away at a mountain, not a boulder.
Calcified structures, created to oppress, control, kill.
Erosion is slow work, sweethearts.
Rest for a time.
Then get up and turn again toward kindness,
Toward your neighbor,
Toward those who are still trapped in the stone.
Tell them, “I won’t give up.”
Tell them, “I am with you.”
Tell them, “I will learn to eat rocks.”
“For you, I will keep chewing, keep grinding,
Until the mountain crumbles to dust.”
–Excerpts from poem written by Minister Elizabeth Stevens, 2018