It’s a long, twisting path from Plum Lick Creek in
Kentucky to the Kabul River in Afghanistan. That is, if you go by boat, then over
land. Our little stream of water flows into Boone Creek and winds its way to the
Gulf of Mexico-the Kabul River flows to the Indus River and on to the Arabian
Sea. Children know this when they embark aboard their miniature sailboats of common
Kentucky is 40,395
square miles; Afghanistan is 250,775 square miles, more than six
times bigger than Kentucky. Another way of looking at it:
Afghanistan is larger than the combined land areas of Kentucky,
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Kentucky has a
population of 3,685,296; Afghanistan’s population is 18,052,000,
almost five times greater than Kentucky and far larger than the
combined populations of Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and West
It’s easy to lapse into
the misconception that Afghanistan is more or less the size of a
postage stamp. Maybe it’s because we tend to think that the world
map shrinks with distance. Children know better.
There’s a notable
connection here, and I’d like to speak to it in the spirit of the
Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan seasons.
It’s the children.
There are the children
of the victims of the World Trade Center massacre, and there are
the children running for cover in Afghanistan. There are children
of the victims of the Pentagon carnage, and in rocky caves there
are the children with the barest of life expectancies in the best
of times. There are the children who have died and will die with
their parents in moments of hideous truth.
What to do?
The commanding officer
of the United States has guarded answers. The United Nations has
resolutions. The maximum leader of global terrorism harbors
zealous fanaticisms. The Taliban entrenches deeper into unyielding
resistances. People gather to pray in churches, mosques, and
synagogues. Outside, patriotic songs are sung. Taunts are shouted.
Hands wring. Others rise in clinched fists. There are rallies pro
But the children are
born without being skilled in any of these things. They come into
the world with an urgent craving to survive. They have an
appetite, and they cry for milk, not toys. If they learn greed, it
comes later. They long for warmth, especially in times of winter
when cold, bitter winds blow down from Canada, Scandinavia, and
There are howls of
global intrigue, wails of religious conflict, and chills of
cultural mistrust. The children want no part of any of it. They’ve
not acquired the alchemist’s deceit, the desire to turn base metal
into gold or silver. Babies feed at their mothers’ breasts and
breathe the air upon which no merchant has fastened a price.
It is written in Isaiah:
"A little child shall lead them." The literal meaning of
this doesn’t hold up well in a world of advanced technology, but
the down-to-earth interpretation seems as clear as it is sound. We
grownups inhabiting the globe from Plum Lick in Kentucky to Zebak
in Afghanistan owe it to all our children to be as undeceitful as
possible while working to be as strong as possible. Yes, it’s a
predicament. But it doesn’t mean we have to proceed with adult
As we build up our
strength, we should never forget the innocence from whence we
We are the children. When the children are gone,
all is lost. So long as there are children, there is hope