Monday, August 07, 2006
Paper Doll Funerals
Janice Hancock was just a little southern girl in Conway, Arkansas who loved to play with paper dolls. Everyday she would dress them up and take care of them. She would play with them and put them away when she was done. Those paper dolls were some of her favorite toys and good friends for a little girl.
Janice had a cousin who would come to play. His name was Hollis Williams. Hollis was a serious child with a fascination for ritual. Every day, Janice would pull out her paper dolls, dress them, and play with them. When Hollis would visit he would play with her and her paper dolls. Sometimes, her paper dolls would get sick and on the rare occasion those sick paper dolls just wouldn't pull through, Hollis would be ready with Bible in hand to perform the funeral. A small, private family service attended by only that little southern girl, a boy priest, and a few other paper dolls.
Janice is my mother. This was Conway, Arkansas in the 1940s. She told me that even as a little boy, Hollis loved ritual and liturgy. He grew up to become a priest in the Episcopal church. She doesn't know where he is now, but she just knew that's what he would end up doing.
Even now, I see the spiritual lives of children take on Kingdom of God qualities. I see kids who take the candy that they have and share it with other kids. Many times they count out the number of pieces so that eveyone has some. Sometimes, I see kids ask others if they are all right, you know, when they fall and have hurt themselves. I see a little boy who notices his friend pray a prayer of beginning, the start of a journey perhaps, or even his next step in the journey to wholeness and holiness.
Children have a heart for the spiritual. Not always, like adults, do they make the decisions that honor God and others. Those are the times they fail to mirror the Creator and instead mirror parents who they've seen talk abusively to each other or something they've seen on television. Notwithstanding, they are sensitive to the heart of God, moreso, certainly than adults.
I see in a boy who finds joy and comfort in meaningful ritual or a girl who takes part in the same, the heart and voice and mind of God. Take comfort in a paper doll funeral, for our hope is in the Resurrection. Take joy in the faith of a child, because the Kingdom of God belongs to them.