Finding Meaning

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Gifts of Children

By Skip Hellewell

It’s election season in our great democracy, but you do sometimes need a break from posturing and preening politicians. Last week, we told of little Lauren Kimball bringing a congregation to tears with her rendition of Billy Graham’s favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” The column closed by pointing out how hard children work to make their parents proud. It’s important to recognize this lest, after years of unappreciated effort, the children just stop trying.

In response, a mom told about a second grader we’ll call Maggie. Maggie recently brought a note from her teacher home. A note this early in the school year is not a good thing, especially for Maggie who tends to live in her own world. But, to the mom’s surprise, this note simply listed good things Maggie had done as a student. You can appreciate that the mom was pleasantly surprised, though puzzled by this unexpected note.

In a later conversation, the mom inquired of the teacher. The teacher explained that students earn points for good behavior and they can spend those points for things they want. Maggie, for example, could have used her points to buy stickers, have lunch alone with the teacher, and so on. Or she also could “buy” a take-home note from the teacher recounting her good behavior. Rather than something for herself, Maggie chose to please her mom. About half the kids, the teacher noted, choose the take-home note. Children really do want to make their parents proud.

Then there’s Charlie, an energetic first-grader. For his grandfather’s birthday, Charlie made a birthday card. He then got a jar of dill pickles from the refrigerator and earnestly presented the card along with the pickles to the taken-aback grandfather. A used jar of pickles is an unusual gift, even from a 6-year-old. Later, the grandfather inquired of Charley about his gift. Charlie reminded him of being at an older brother’s water polo game and eating lunch. The lunch sandwich included pickles, which Charlie had removed and left on his plate. The grandfather, congenitally unable to waste food, tried to teach a lesson by eating the discarded pickles with exaggerated gusto. This didn’t change Charlie’s take on pickles, but it did make his mental list of grandpa birthday gifts. Children give back more than we realize.

In our hustle-bustle lives, we lose touch with things natural and true. The poet Wordsworth spoke of this:

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours . . .”

Our weary world wants for the influence of children. We don’t just need them to prop up our Social Security system when the parents retire, we need their virtue and purity. Each child’s birth blesses our society with a bit of heaven. They come from God, as Wordsworth reminded, “trailing clouds of glory…” Children, naturally free of guile, replenish our essential earthly reservoir of innocence. Treasure the children in your world—we need all their gifts. There’s meaning in that.


Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected].


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

Salt Chrch, 8681 N. Coast Hwy, 10:00 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.


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