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Those Juniors, Part 5: Natural Phenomena

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: There are two ways to study a child: objective study and subjective study. Objective study notices what is observable from the outside; subjective study enters into a child’s viewpoint, to see and feel and think like a child, through the process of introspection.

Continuing our objective study of children, and comparing them in the various age groups, we discover certain actions and habits which are natural and, with but slight variation, common to all. Let us notice some of these, as the realization of just how natural they are at certain times of life gives us some idea of what we can expect, and helps us to be prepared for what may be coming next.

Mrs. Paul C. Mason, cradle roll division specialist, in a talk before a large group of teachers one day, described the restlessness of her little ones in the Glendale Isabel Street Church, with these words:

“One minute, they listen.
Two, they yawn.
Three, they wriggle, and
Four, they are gone.”

How true it is! and with what joy we watch the lengthening of the period of concentration as the years go by. What an intoxicating relief when they get into the primary division and can stay “put.” But the gray hairs begin to multiply as, in the junior division, they come to Sabbath school with pockets bulging with—candy or gags or pins or anything to keep the teacher wondering what is going to happen next. Then into the youth’s division, where the restlessness is more mental. And they doubt and argue or woolgather or giggle and gaff and heehaw. Then finally into the senior division, where at last they can think and sit still and really know what you have said.

What are we going to do about this restlessness? Shall we pray for some master chemist to produce a potion magical enough to keep little fingers and little feet quiet and big tongues and big eyes still? What a sorry product would be ours! For this is nature’s way of deciding that these children shall not be lopsided. No, rather will we accept the challenge and find a way to harness this very trait and make it serve our end. With intelligence we can properly balance the Sabbath school program so that lesson periods are within the limit of concentration. We rest little feet and fingers with finger plays, action songs, and offering marches, while we are teaching lessons in co-operation and obedience at the same time. We can discover ways of paralyzing babbling tongues, of trapping attention, of stimulating co-operation, till at last the product is worthy.

How glad I am that God endowed us with curiosity and that we never outgrow it. Babies exhibit their curiosity by poking their fingers into everything, and trying to put everything into their mouths. Among their first sentences are, “What’s that?” “What you doing?” The five-year-old drives you crazy with questions from five in the morning till he sinks exhausted to sleep at night. The primary’s curiosity is insatiable. He reads books on how things work; he takes a clock to pieces, fiddles with the phonograph and the radio; concocts strange and weird contraptions to see what will happen. This appetite tames down somewhat as he enters high school and college, but it never dies. And even in adult life it fills our lives with thrills and rewards.

Our evangelists take full advantage of the curiosity within us, to entice us to meetings where the doctrines of the Bible are studied.

“A Mistake the Whole World Made,” is sure to attract a larger congregation than “Sabbath or Sunday, Which?”

“Which Church Would Peter and Paul Join if They Were in Los Angeles Today?” appeals much more than, “Which Is the True Church?”

Feel the pull on your curiosity when you see on the handbill “Hell Has Been Located!”

“The Man That God Forgot” has more interest appeal than “God Forgives Sin.”

Credulity is the seed of faith. It is almost frightening to see how spontaneously little folk believe everything we say.

“But it is! My teacher says so,” is so often the final word in a childish argument. Not a vestige of doubt, no request for proof, just pure unadulterated belief.

But as the children grow, they “want to see.” “How do you know?” they demand, “Who told you?” By adolescence “doubt” appears, and the teacher must have the time or date, the page and number, of every reference.

Even the laws of nature must be proved in the laboratory. Credulity is dying. However, as one by one the facts of life are proved and demonstrated, we come to the unseen, which cannot be proved in the same way. Then a miracle happens. Rising out of the ashes of credulity comes faith—“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

What could we do without imagination? This is what gives us the beautiful colors of life. The imagination of the young child can see a king with his subjects or a shepherd with his sheep, in a few rough strokes on the board. It can see a babe in a clothespin with a washcloth around it. It grows till primary boys and girls can imagine they are kings and rulers or servants and lords. Then in adolescence it changes. It soars to the clouds. It builds air castles and tries to fit the daydreamer into them with honor and achievement. Finally in college days, as a toy balloon pricked by a pin settles down to earth, the imagination becomes sane and stable at last. Wise teachers, realizing the need of this quality in every life, cultivate it in some and repress it in others, lest life become altogether unreal and spoiled.

Even as credulity gives way to faith, so we find there are two main kinds of imitation, the first of which fades as the second predominates.

1. Muscular.
2. Idealistic.

In early childhood the little tots follow along the actions of the leader, as she leads out in a finger play or action song. At home they will play Sabbath school or doctor, imitating the actions of those they see and know. Suddenly a ten-year-old becomes a hero worshiper, and his imitation changes from muscular to ideal. This imitation of ideals then becomes stronger and stronger, throwing the challenge to every leader to be what he says, to live the way he wants the boys and girls to live. This is why we cannot lift anyone higher than we are ourselves.

(Next week: “Natural Phenomena, Part 2.”)

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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