Grace, a precious youngster who couldn’t have been more than 5, wandered to my table at a church mission fair. She bounced along behind her father, but didn’t miss a beat as he engaged me in conversation about Micah’s work.

We covered volunteer opportunities, items they might collect and activities they could consider as a family. But as the “adult” conversation wrapped up, Grace insisted the she and I have a word, as well.

Her father turned away and began a conversation with the next table in line, so I knelt to her level and listened intently.

Grace had heard every word of what her father and I discussed. She knew we helped people without a place to live and tried to get them back into a home, once again. But what she really wanted me to know is how she was helping the “homeless,” as well.

Together, she and her dad made birdhouses. They built them in the garage. She painted them. And they gave them away to people who might have birds in their yard that needed them. Because of their work, Grace had heard the conversation I was having with her father, and she got an idea.

“We could make lots of them,” she said with wide eyes and radiating excitement. “And then, anytime you move someone new into housing we could bring them a bird house so their birds have a place to live, too.”

Tears welling in my eyes, I caught a momentary glimpse of what God had in mind when he called us to a childlike faith.

In Matthew 18, the disciples are grilling Jesus. They want to know who will be the greatest, most superior, in heaven. In true Christ fashion, he doesn’t really answer the question, but he calls a young child to sit on his knee.

Gazing into the child’s soul, Jesus says to the group, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Even in biblical times, society was driven by the idea that somebody had to be better than someone else; that humans had to earn what they got and got what they deserved.

The disciples, surely, expected Jesus to answer their question with a checklist of moral standards. But who does Jesus point to as an example of perfect faith? The least experienced, most innocent child, who had likely not been on this earth long enough to either earn or deserve anything.

If you’ve spent anytime with a little person, you know how humble and honest they are, the younger they happen to be. Free of pride, ambition and lacking all sense of time, they embody the essence of how God created the human spirit.

Somehow, the older we get, the harder we fight to be less and less like a child. What we lose in innocence is replaced with filters, boundaries and a life so full of stuff that we can’t remember what being a child was like. We’re too busy. We don’t have enough money. We don’t know how to do it. And somehow, we come to understand that we have absolutely nothing that we can give to the world.

Grace’s most innocent faith reminds us that we all have something very special to give. From the very day we are born, God blessed us with talents, interests, time and abilities. And if we are fortunate enough as we age, we may even have a little money to share.

But lest we not forget. Each of us began our journey through this earthly kingdom as a child. And if we manage not to let the world take away the things we were born to give, we become adults who believe in our own ability to create a kingdom of God here on earth.

Meghann Cotter is executive director of Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that offers holistic care to the Fredericksburg’s street homeless.

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