An empty school playground with rusting equipment, swings with broken chains and a toppled slide. An abandoned school building, broken windows and furniture and a floor littered with trash and dead leaves. If you have seen the movie, Children of Men, this scene is a familiar one to you. For those of you who haven't seen it, the movie portrays a world without children. In the story, people stopped being able to reproduce at some point and the last children have become young adults. I won't go into the plot here, but I highly recommend the movie and especially the book, which is much different and significantly more profound than the film.
One of the main points of both the film and the book is the effect that the presence of children has on a culture. Children bring with them joy, energy, and hope for the future. Children make us want to improve our world, and they draw us out of ourselves into the greater community. Anyone who has traveled with children can tell you that children bridge cultural and language gaps and brings adults together who may not otherwise interact. In Children of Men, the world without children is a dark one. People have resorted to living for themselves and for present pleasures because they have no reason to plan for the future and little need to depend on the good of others. This self-focus leads to depression, isolation, fear, mistrust, and a society of violence and crime. Without children there is no hope, a rusty and broken world.
I have been thinking about this a lot this week as I follow the story of all of those people buried under rubble in a land that I have come to love as much as my own. So many children gone, and most of them are their parents' only child. A world without children. For some of those parents, having another child is out of the question. Some are past their childbearing years. Others took measures to make sure they would have no more, unable to pay the fines that would accompany an accidental second child. It is not my desire to pass judgment on a government that has made some difficult decisions to deal with their overwhelming population. I only wish to grieve for those who have lost their hope and their future, the one child who was to bring them joy in their old age.
Yet I know that there are also those among them who have a great Hope, who know One who willingly gave up His only Son to bring hope and healing and light to a dark and broken world. The One who will restore all things, will give children to the barren, will ultimately give those children back to their parents because they chose to give their children to Him long before a tragedy took them. The one who reminds us that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.
And I am still sad. My heart longs to be there and to bring comfort and help.