All our children
I know a small boy called Tom. He sees the world through exciting rose-coloured spectacles. He must get grumpy, but I never see him then. He quite likes my dog, but what he likes better is fiddling with her harness, and the little light that we use when we go walking after dark. Tom likes to switch it on and off, on and off.
The other day, while out walking my dog with my mobility scooter, I saw Tom with his mum and dad, peddling towards me in his peddle-car. “Hello Margaret!” he called, cheerily. His mum and dad had to break into a trot to catch him up as he sped towards me, beaming. It’s nice when someone’s pleased to see you. Of course, what Tom really wanted was to inspect my scooter. “Turn on the lights,” he instructed. I did. I made the warning lights flash, and he liked that. Then he got out of his car and walked round the back. “Do the back ones,” he said. So I did. We’d have been there a lot longer, if his mum hadn’t said it was time to go.
My encounter with Tom reminded me of something that the Belgian author Georges Simenon wrote in his autobiography. Simenon is most famous for his Maigret detective stories.
‘My son Pierre, at thirteen months, amazes me by his capacity for wonder… A hundred times a day he points to a picture, a flower, a piece of furniture, the design on a carpet, a bedspread, and, as if in ecstasy, gives an “Oh – !” of delight. Everything is beautiful. Everything is a source of pleasure.’
Everything’s exciting when you’re very young. At least it is when you’re fortunate enough to be a child in a happy home, with nothing to fear.
But can you imagine a child like this being harmed? Can you imagine a child like Tom being terrified by bombs and seeing people killed? Can you imagine children like this being starved, or deprived of medical treatment that could save their lives? The children who are experiencing these terrible things are no less loved than Tom, or than Pierre was.
Babies are just babies. Children are just children. None of them asked to be born. They’re not on one side or the other in a conflict; they’re in the middle.
This was a ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio Suffolk. On the way home from the radio station, I heard the news about the bombing of Qana, killing at least forty people, half of them children.