Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jesus loves ALL the little children, and we should do likewise

It’s north of 50 years ago, but I distinctly remember attending Vacation Bible School as a pre-schooler at the United Methodist Church on the corner of First East and Utah Avenue in Tooele.
My Aunt Anna attended there and my parents figured that any religious influences would benefit me and hopefully make their special challenge of raising me lighter.
In addition to being handed a blue raspberry Popsicle on the last day of the week, lodged in my memory bank are the words from the now politically incorrect song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
Jesus loves the little children
All little children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
            The message is simple and clear, but the meaning penetrates deeper than the words.
            Since the only One to live a perfect life loves all children, it stands to reason that we should do the same. Obviously this extends far beyond skin color.
            When we love “all little children of the world,” we accept people for who they are and build upon their individual strengths. This becomes relatively easy when people look, act and think like we do.
            However, when we meet people of a different skin color, religion, political leanings or sexual orientation, do we give them the same number of marbles as those who walk, talk and resemble us?
            Although Tooele is a far cry from cosmopolitan, I count myself richly blessed for growing up in a town where my friends came from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds.
I cling to the memories of listening to Hank Pannunzio’s dad and uncles converse in Italian at their Newtown gas station. Two of the people I confided in high school to - Bob Martinez and Tina Lopez - remain close friends today.
I am grateful that my sports reporting dad covered Willie Fisher, Leo Gibby and Danny Frazier the same as he wrote about Wes Vorwaller, Steve Pratt and Bob Stringham.
Although I did not appreciate it at the time, I am indebted to my dad for taking me to the wood shed after flaunting an ethnic slur at the dinner table as a junior high kid.
Unfortunately, those lessons failed to penetrate into my soul as deeply as they should have when discussing those of a different sexual orientation.
I’m ashamed of my hurtful words spoken in years gone by against people that I teased, harassed, gossiped about and judged far too harshly. I’m grateful for their forgiveness of me for my sophomoric remarks.
Fortunately, my feelings have changed dramatically over the years, specifically in the past few decades as our society has addressed this issue more openly.
My change in perspective, attitude and eventually heart came primarily from two directions: I accepted and became friends with those of a different sexual orientation and I ceased making judgments that are best reserved for the Almighty One.
Simply stated, I try to apply the teachings of the Savior that I learned not so long ago: “Jesus loves the little children; ALL little children of the world.”
Peace, love and all that Jazz.
(Roberts previously served as an LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.)


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