Love's Attention

Our daughter was enrolled in a school in a rather tough neighborhood. The first week she came home in tears with tales of how she was pinched and hit on the playground. She began to keep a tally on how many friends she had and how many enemies. It was pretty grim for a while, but finally the friend count pulled ahead until she reported just two hostile first-graders. But these did such a thorough job of hitting and hating that our girl finally refused to go to school at all.

A seven-year-old in a situation like that tends to be beyond consolation; mere words about how much God cares for her seem pretty empty. She is convinced by the mean words and punches of her tormentors that nobody cares. And of course, my certainty, based on experience, that children's cruelty can turn into kindness and acceptance, given the work of time and natural interest, was of no comfort. When you are little, the anguish of now is overwhelming; perspective is no part of the vocabulary of daily living.

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