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Affirming Children

This post is the fifth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.

Most people who knew my father would say he had a gentle spirit.  Never was that more evident in the way he loved and related to children, the elderly, and to persons who were sick.  In this post, I’ll focus on children.

One of the routine traditions for a pastor in a Baptist church when I was growing up was to stand at the door after a Sunday morning worship service and greet persons as they left.

I watched my father bend his knees and crouch down hundreds of times to be on a child’s eye level when talking with him or her after church (or at a community event), and regularly be greeted with hugs around his neck or “high fives.”  This simple act seemed to give him a special connection with children.

He also listened to children, and made a special effort to relate to them.  He would find something to affirm in the child and he made sure he pointed it out to them.

One of those children who knew my dad as his pastor the first thirteen years of his life (and is now almost 40), wrote me recently when he saw my blog.  He said,

I’ll never forget sitting in your Dad’s office as a child when I was wrestling with what it meant to follow Jesus.  He was so kind and gentle in the way he listened and offered guidance.

Many of my first impressions of what it meant to be a man after God’s own heart came from your Dad. I treasure his influence in my life and am grateful for the stories and insights you’re sharing with all of us. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to me to hear from and learn more about Lewis Marler. Thanks for this unexpected gift!

As his son, one of my favorite memories was with him after dinner.  I would sit in his lap in the den and he would hold me close to him with his strong arms wrapped around me.  He would whisper in my ear, “Malcolm, you can be anything in this world you want to be.”

He must have said that to me a hundred times, before I actually heard it.  I still remember thinking to myself, really?  I can do anything?  I got it, and I believed it, and it opened a world of possibilities for me.  He planted a seed of self-confidence that I will be forever grateful.

Are you aware of how you treat the children that you come in contact with in your life?  Do you encourage them?  Do you find something to affirm in them? Do you believe in them?  Do they know it?

Love the little children of your world. It is one of the simplest ways you and I can make a significant difference in our lifetimes.

My father taught me so.


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