“All the Little Children”


I never dreamed I would be writing this.


When I was a sophomore in college, I visited my Aunt’s home frequently since her family lived in the same town as the college. On one of my visits, things grew tense as my Aunt and my Grandmother argued about whether or not some woman they knew had engaged in an affair or not. At first, I thought they were simply gossiping. Then, my Aunt looked at me and quietly explained that they were discussing a mixed-race couple who had just had a baby. My Aunt explained that Grandmother believed “black people and white people do not have the same reproductive organs.” Thus, Grandmother assumed the woman had to have had an affair.


I was shocked! This was the same woman who taught me to sing “Jesus loves the little children … ALL the little children of the world.”


To be honest, learning about my Grandmother’s misguided beliefs set me on a path of questioning everything I believed. How could I take for granted everything I had been taught in church and Sunday School? More importantly, how could I trust those who taught me?


The good news is, by the time I was in college, I already had a strong close personal relationship with God. Given that close relationship, I was not questioning “that” God is, I was questioning “who” God is. I was searching for a faith that was genuinely my own and not what was handed to me on a silver platter.


I know what you are asking, and the answer is yes. This is the same grandmother I praised a few weeks ago for her perseverance after her first husband died due to complications from the 1918-1919 flu epidemic. I’m not sure where her belief about the differences in races came from. In my shock, I did not think to ask.


The following school year, I transferred to the University of Kansas in Lawrence. During my time there I got to know several locals. I had a conversation with several young African American men who grew up in Lawrence and were about ten years old in the summer of 1970. I still remember that conversation. We were talking in the early 1980s and yet their memories were vivid and still shook them up. I think that’s why the conversation is still so strong in my memory.


Given the events of this past week, when George Floyd was killed while in the custody of white police officers and the riots that have followed, I decided to look up the race riots that happened in the summer of 1970 in Lawrence, Kansas. I found an article from April 2010 in the Lawrence Journal World that provides helpful background information.


On July 16, 1970, Rick Dowdell, a 19 year old African American was shot in the back of the head and killed by a white police officer.


Four days later peaceful protests turned violent.


Outsiders took advantage of the tension in the town and Lawrence, Kansas, was torn apart for most of that summer.


Locals were the ones left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out how to move on from there.


The young men I talked to back in the 80s remembered joining the peaceful protests. They remembered running for their lives when violence broke out. Some of them remember sleepless nights that summer, fearful that police would knock on their doors and drag them away from their families.


This summer, we approach the 50th anniversary of those riots. I am a grandmother with grandchildren nine and eleven years old. In all my years of soul searching, one of the truths I have landed on is this.


Jesus does love ALL the little children of the world.


Jesus loves … George Floyd.

He is a child of God.


Jesus loves … the police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he died.

He is a child of God.


Jesus loves … the peaceful protesters who join the protest to genuinely support their neighbors who have struggled too long under oppression.

These are children of God.


Jesus loves … the outsiders who take advantage of the protests to steal and destroy.

These are children of God.


Jesus loves … My Grandmother who has taught me another important truth. We all have the capacity to be brave one moment and foolish the next.

She is a child of God.


Jesus loves … the African American Grandmother who prays every day her grandson will grow up to be an old man.

She is a child of God.


That’s the good news. I found my truth. I do believe this truth and stand on it. That said, it does not mean I am capable of always understanding how Jesus can love each and everyone of us. I just know He does.


The sad news is this. In the early 80s when we had that conversation about the riots in Lawrence, each of us firmly believed we could make this world a better place for our children and grandchildren. That hasn’t happened …


Yet …


Perhaps this is naïve. Even so, I must say it. I wonder what the world would be like if we each learned, believed in, and lived by the words of the song my grandmother taught me so many years ago.


“Jesus loves the little children. All the 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.”


You are a child of God.






https://www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/apr/21/1970-racial-unrest-sparked-deadly-violence/ Accessed June 1, 2020