Should you say hello to children?

I can only assume the good Samaritan had CRB clearance.

Driving to Ormskirk along Prescot Road in “wet” rain, I noticed a young student heading towards me on the opposite pavement pulling two heavy cases.  She seemed to be in some distress.

My instinct was to turn around and offer her a lift to wherever she was going.  But of course, no way.  Not only have I schooled my daughters to refuse lifts from strangers whatever the situation but I would run the risk of being reported for propositioning.

I did look out for a car being driven by a young woman driver, someone I knew.  But without success.  Sadly you can’t be too careful, especially with the current spate of elderly celebs being prosecuted for sexual misdemeanours a generation ago.

The problem now is potential breakdown not just between men and young women but between adults and children.

I often see children from our church school around and about.  Often they will say “Hello, Mr Moughtin!” and give me a big smile as if they have caught me out in a life outside school.  So naturally I give them a big smile.  I would like to say it is instinctive, maybe I smile first.

However, if the parent does not know who I am, I sometimes get a look as if I am some predator.  The level of mistrust is now very high. It is now illegal to smile at a child in public.

This is a problem which the Children’s Society, showing some imagination, is seeking to address – with the catchy headline “intergenerational service”.  For this is one area where the church can play a major role, enabling and encouraging the different generations to engage.

I’m not sure it was a problem for the New Testament church but even so the cross of Christ commissions us to break down those barriers which society –and sin – would throw up.

In practice, it will mean talking to children and young people rather than look over them or assume that they come from a different planet.

I think it is for the older people to take the initiative.

I recall some years ago one of our church parents telling me that her daughter had commented that I knew how to talk to young people, as if this were highly unusual.  (I have had enough practice over the years with four daughters).  But it was a telling point.  It was not something she was used to and it does seem to be the case that many adults simply airbrush young people out of existence.  Maybe it is a lack of confidence.  Just ask them how their course is going!

If Jesus could talk to a Samaritan woman ostracised by her own community, so he calls us his disciples to engage in conversation with those we would normally avoid.

It goes without saying that we use common sense and follow child safety procedures (for our own safety).  But something to think about as we bring healing to a disjointed society in Christ’s name.