Today I think of children, and find this comment by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister: from The Monastic Way -- a daily word for each month. The reference to this quote is the portrait “Head of a Girl” by Paula Modersohn-Becker. This is her word for Wednesday, February 16, 2011:
“All over the country, all over the world, children are being bought and sold, beaten and killed, abandoned and – worse, perhaps – simply ignored by the very people they depend on for food and care and love and security. We love to think of children as “innocent.” But, I thought, as I looked at Modersohn-Becker’s “Head of a Girl,” are children really innocent – meaning unknowing of evil – or are they simply the silent bearers of the sins adults commit against them? And at what cost – to us as a society – as well as to them?”
In researching for my book Rachel's Children: Surviving the Second World War (on Amazon) I now find in Sister Joan's comment a truth that is proven by what happens to children during a time of war. Not only during wartime, however, but under all kinds of circumstances, as listed in her comment for today. I have to wonder what it is we could be thinking of, when we take our future and cripple it emotionally and physically by the actions we are guilty of committing against children. Even though most of us would never consider behaving in such ways towards children, we are complicit indirectly when we simply sigh and shake our corporate head over such sins. We accommodate the brutal behavior if we fail to speak out, to draw attention to, and advocate for a change in our common humanity.
None of us came into this world as full-blown adults. Along the way we too were wounded in some way, seen or unseen. Do we avoid advocacy for the children of this world and this time because it would remind us of our own vulnerability in our growing years? Or do we make judgments that reflect the sense that because we have come through that storm others can as well? How do we heal our own wounds, or do they simply exist in the shadows of our psyches unattended?
The portrait referred to is a haunting reminder of our own lost innocence, and serves as a reflection of who we are today. Look it up and define what happens to you as you study this portrait of a young girl who represents more than one child. What is the secret behind her eyes?