Being and Meaning for Children
Keith Henderson. Keith Henderson is the Monitor's page editor., The Christian Science Monitor
MUCH of Robert Coles's life has been spent talking with children in an effort to understand their thinking and feelings. "The Spiritual Life of Children," like his many earlier volumes, demonstrates his skill at this work.
The conversations that fill these pages are almost invariably intriguing, often startling. They exhibit a clarity of faith, and sometimes an honesty of inquiry and doubt, that challenges the adult world's pieties and recalls the words of Isaiah, "and a little child shall lead them."
Eleven-year-old Haroon, a Pakistani boy growing up in London, ends a talk with Coles by assuring him, "I will pray to Allah that you and I find the right answers." The questions Coles asks his young friends are zingers - probing the nature of the God they worship, how He can be watching over everyone at once, how they pray, and what it means to them.
Anne, another 11-year-old, reared in a conservative Roman Catholic family in a inner suburb of Boston, describes how her favorite Biblical text, "I am the light of the world," helped her during a bout with poison ivy. "I felt warm inside. I felt at peace with myself. I was waiting for the poison ivy to start up again, but I just didn't care. I smiled at the thought of it; I almost dared it to get the better of me. I guess God's words had taught me - for a while! - what's important and what isn't."
Most of the children in Coles's book seem to have an extraordinary sense of the importance of their faith in a power, a Being, that transcends the everyday and tangible. They have an equally strong sense of the need to connect that power to everyday life.
Are these kids - whether in London, New Mexico, Israel, or Boston - really typical? Probably not. The author, after all, sought out children who clearly had a "spiritual life. …