April 15, 2007 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Two small arms encircle my neck; I’m being enveloped in a hug. I should return the child’s embrace, but instead I feel myself tensing.

This child is dirty.

I look over Thomas’s shoulder to his grandmother on the other side of the room. She, too is dirty. Her fingernails are caked with black grime, and her shirt looks as though it has not seen a washing machine in some time. The short sleeves of her top expose some sort of skin condition covering both arms. I wince to think that this child was in her arms right before he came to mine.

Thomas’s hands move to my hair; he is curious about my curls. I shrink from his touch, hoping unconsciously that if his fingers brush me only lightly, there will be less germ transfer than with more liberal contact. Though I hold back, I still feel polluted, as if I should go and wash my hands. And my hair.

This is a child, Jamie, I think to myself, just a child. Don’t draw back from a child.

I stand; Thomas’s arms stretch up toward me. I read his unspoken request in his plaintive brown eyes. I turn, I hesitate, I try to find an excuse to refuse.

But I can’t. I’m at church, after all. Church is where we’re supposed to embrace the sick, the hurting, and—yes—the unclean.

So I reach down and lift Thomas up to me. His head comes to my shoulder, and I draw his small body close to mine.

As I do, I wonder this: How did Jesus manage 33 years among us—living with us, eating with us, coming in contact with our daily germs, our sweat, our tears?


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

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