Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Birth gives new life to everyone

April 9, 2008

Some youngsters cry when they are baptized; this one laughed out loud. He also dipped his toes in the basin, bent over and slapped the water with the palms of his hands, and flipped the water from the tips of his fingers.

The pastor was no fool; she whipped through the naming and claiming process like a race-car drive rounding the bend toward home. When she dripped the water on his blonde hair, he chortled and squirmed.

She said that perhaps they had a young clergy in the midst; murmurs of approval from the audience, disclaimers from the family. One of his great uncles said he thought scientist - just wanted to know what was in that basin; clearly one curious boy.

There is a tradition in some churches, and one which makes me uneasy, of taking the baptized youngster, holding him skyward and parading him down the aisles for the parishioners to meet and greet. It is an abrupt removal from the safe and secure arms of a parent, held in an insecure position above the head of the pastor, and tends to generate anxiety in the youngster and onlookers.

This was no exception. That bubbly, chortling, fair-haired 15-month-old turn into a squalling, fidgety, tearful youngster. Give him back; I wanted to yell as she paraded him down the aisle. He let his needs be known and was returned to his mother.

She wiped away his tears; a sad, tearful, dimpled face broke into sunlight that filled, if not the room, certainly all corners of my heart. He was named; we were claimed.

He has his great-aunt's eyes; his cousin's button nose; his mother's disposition; his father's smile; curiosity all his own. He will explore and explode all the norms the world has to offer, will find them wanting; will find his own way of doing things.

He will be a challenge; he will be a joy. He adores his older brother; looks to his mother for comfort; his dad for strength and to the rest of us: We just make fools of ourselves taking pictures, picking up Cheerios, wiping drool, babbling incoherently to make him smile, and taking turns corralling him. All things breakable are in high places.

We come down from high places for one such as this. He is all that is good in any of us. He is our hope for the future; worth waiting for and worth working to make the world a better place for. He knits us together like a comfortable sweater; lest we get too comfortable in our respective easy chairs, tips over history and spills the future at our feet. Run, he seems to say, catch me if you can. I'm buying new running shoes.

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