When a child speaks

There is a scene in the film The Lives of Others where a little boy is playing with a ball near a lift. The lift doors open as the ball is rolling towards them and it goes in. The boy wants to retrieve his ball so he goes in after it. The doors close and the lift moves up.

There is a man in uniform in the lift and the boy recognises him as a member of the State Security and he has often heard his parents talking about them. The boy speaks to him and says, ‘You are from the State Security. Aren’t they bad people?’

The man says, ‘who told you that?’ The boy says, ‘my dad.’ Without thinking, the man in uniform says, ‘what name?’ The boy replies, ‘name of what?’ The man is about to say, ‘your dad’, but he checks himself and says, ‘your ball’. The boy replies, ‘Don’t be silly, balls don’t have names.’

The boy, without any sense of danger, was curious about the man and asked a simple question. The man, whose job was to seek out ‘enemies of the state’, was about to learn of one more enemy. But he stopped, realising he was going to bring harm to this boy and his family. He had a change of heart. He realises that what he is doing is harming people and harming himself. He begins to change.

‘The orchard where the tree grows is judged on the quality of its fruit;

Similarly, a man’s words betray what he feels’ (Ben Sirach).

‘A man’s words flow out of what fills his heart’ (Jesus).

The man listened to the boy’s words and was touched. He knew the boy spoke from his heart. ‘Unless you become as little children …’ Our words do not always flow from our hearts but from some other source.

We have a painful example this past few days. Russia has invaded Ukraine. Russia kept saying it had no intention of invading. But then it invaded. Russia has been a Christian country for a thousand years and yet they do not listen to their own hearts. The people they invaded were their own brothers and sisters. But still they attacked them and killed many of them. And the suffering will go on for a long time.


We cannot do anything about that situation. But we can pray for those people, those attacked and those who did the attacking. Insofar as we listen to our hearts and become people of peace, we can cause ‘ripples of hope to go out into our troubled world’ (Robert Kennedy). That is what Jesus is calling us to do Maybe we should listen more to children.

Post published in: Faith

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