Random Acts of Sign Language

Grace, Jonah, and Colette. Society  tends to see parents as doing all the teaching in family relationships, but I'm not sure that's always the case.

Grace, Jonah, and Colette. Society  tends to see parents as doing all the teaching in family relationships, but I'm not sure that's always the case.

I’m hoping this topic will be as simple and light hearted as my last was complicated and serious. I think it’s a mistake to expect everything in life to be simple, but some things are, and this is one of them. Pick your current event, the principle applies:

The other day I was running on the trails at our local nature preserve (using the term “running” loosely). It was a busy day and I found myself crossing paths with hikers, bikers, and riders of all sorts. Sometimes trail relations can get a little tense between these three groups, so I always try to set aside my grimace for a moment and say “morning!” with a smile and a head nod. I rounded a corner and saw a woman walking toward me, her young son in tow a few feet behind. I gave my customary greeting, to which she didn’t respond. No matter, I was already moving past her. But in the next moment the little boy, who must’ve been nine or ten, looked up at me and as I ran past, lifted his hand in the American Sign Language sign for “I love you,” and as I ran past, simply said, “This means I love you.”

I smiled to myself as I continued up the trail. I thought of the Savior’s statement when his disciples tried to stop children from taking his time, “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14). Also,

“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3–4).

And then Mosiah 3:19:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Before you fault me for getting sentimental, I realize the boy was likely telling me a fact, not sharing his feelings about me. But still. The plainness. The simplicity. The innocent assumption that I would care, and the confidence to speak up. I’m not sure I can completely explain why, but it was one of the most refreshing social exchanges I’ve ever experienced. In fact, my interactions with children are often refreshing. It doesn’t get much better than baptismal interviews with the soon to be eight-year-old members of the ward, and of course these moments happen often with my own children.

I know as well as anyone that children can sometimes seem like the devil incarnate, but there is so much in their nature that we lose over time: Hope, trust, innocence, honesty, frankness, sincerity… it’s easy to call it naiveté, but if we are going to label children as simply naive, we may as well label Christ naive for performing the Atonement. That's a leap I’m not ready to make.

In a 1994 talk, President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted Indian poet As Tagore, the poet of India, once observed, “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” President Boyd K. Packer taught, "Children are the past, the present, and the future all blended into one. They are consummately precious. Every time a child is born, the world is renewed in innocence."

Thank you little friend, and your worldwide band of miniature cohorts, for trailing bits of heaven upon arrival. We adults have been where you are, and yet in so many ways we need to return. In a 2011 General Conference talk, Sister Jean A. Stevens asked these excellent questions for self reflection:

Have some of life’s experiences taken from you the believing heart and childlike faith you once had? If so, look around at the children in your life. And then look again. They may be children in your family, across the street, or in the Primary in your ward. If we have a heart to learn and a willingness to follow the example of children, their divine attributes can hold a key to unlocking our own spiritual growth.
— Jean A. Stevens, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

President Henry B. Eyring recently taught this powerful truth: 

to be like a child is not to be childish. It is to be like the Savior, who prayed to His Father for strength to be able to do His will and then did it. Our natures must be changed to become as a child to gain the strength we must have to be safe in the times of moral peril.
— President Henry B. Eyring

What childlike attributes do you hope to emulate? Share in the comments!