I am not what I would consider a religious person, but I do consider myself faithful. There is a difference here and it wasn't until adulthood that I actually began to consider that organized religion and faith could be separate as well as connected. I have faith and have taken the structured, organized religion aspect of that with a grain of salt for most of my life. Growing up we did not miss a single Sunday during the school year. I was baptized, confirmed and married in the same church I attended as a child. However, I had not explored my faith in depth until I met my husband. His level of faith and religious expertise far exceeds mine.
As with most things, once we had kids it was time for me to explore the church/faith/religion thing again. I wanted to give my children the same positive church experience I had growing up as well as the benefit of my husband's faith. So we began visiting churches and taking the kids to Sunday School on as regular a basis as anyone else does these days.
My daughter has always enjoyed Sunday school and hearing Bible stories. Both the kid friendly ones and the ones that teach stronger lessons one may not find in a book of children's Bible stories. During a time when we were in between churches Bible stories at dinner was the extent of our kids religious education. My daughter was always captivated by the stories and struggled to understand. "If God said to not eat the fruit, then why didn't Adam and Eve listen?" she would say.
Over the past couple of years we have brought the kids to Good Friday services at church. This year I took all 3 kids to an Ash Wednesday service. A first for me and probably the first one they will remember. The priest told a story, sang songs with the kids, celebrated the Eucharist, and at the end gave each child an olive wood cross from Jerusalem. The children were told that if they came across someone who needed the cross more than they did to go ahead and give it away and she would give them another one to replace it.
My daughter requested that her cross be made into a necklace so she could wear it every day. My son chose to keep his in his pocket so he could find it when he needed to. I added mine to the myriad of items on my key chain. The next day my daughter went to school. When she came home she told me she had given a friend her cross- he was having a hard day. She told him to wear it under his shirt so the teacher wouldn't take it away and add it to her collection of items kids bring into school that can be distracting in class. I was amazed and so proud of her! I reminded her that we would replace her cross on Sunday and told her it was great the way she shared with a friend in need.
Children don't have the fears and inhibitions most adults do about faith. In their innocence kids just share it. They don't worry that someone will judge them or think it strange to share a cross. I can honestly say that I don't know that I would have done the same. In fact, I know I didn't. I have a friend who's 4 year old son had emergency surgery. I should have given her my cross. Instead I called and texted her in the hospital and offered to do anything I could to help. Her husband had things under control so anything I offered was not needed. But this simple gesture could have been so much more. To share a cross in a time of need would have shown something totally different from a text asking how things are going. I have learned from my daughter's gift and will do my best to remember to include it with the offer to help.