OK so my kids are really excited about this song about Peter Pan right now. “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. Sweet little song … and not a Kidz Bop song thank ya Lord. We listen to it daily this week and it’s inspired them all the get out their Jake and the Neverland Pirates toys and make up all kinds of Peter Pan story games. They’re having so much fun with it because the Peter Pan story they know and understand is the Disney version which goes, “There is a magical boy who can fly and he is childhood! Wonderful and free! Come and play with him before you return to your warm, safe home and your loving parents and move on to puberty! Wheee!”
But the real story is much darker.
J.M. Barrie wrote a character, Peter Pan, a boy who would never grow up based on a real boy in his life who could not grow up – his older brother who died accidentally just a few days shy of his 14th birthday. It is my understanding that J.M. Barrie’s mother was so bereft at the passing of her older son that she took to her bed in a state of deep depression, and I can understand why. Enduring the death of a beloved child is said to be the worst horror anyone can endure and I hope that we all somehow – impossibly – sidestep it. J.M., only a child who wished to comfort his mother, came to her as she lay in bed dressed in his dead older brother’s clothes. He whistled like his older brother had whistled to try to make her feel better. Can you imagine? This poor family.
And so one day this writer as a grown man created a world where children go, Neverland, where they will never grow up. Because they cannot.
Because we are who we are in Western culture we trivialize this idea. We Disney-fy the idea of children who are “lost” and turn them into children who stubbornly just don’t want to grow up. The reality in in this world is so many children are lost forever and cannot be recovered. They die. They leave this life forever and they are frozen in time. They cannot grow up, even if they wanted to. Even if they were loved and cherished and fought for they are separated from their parents on this mortal coil.
There is a 50 percent child mortality rate in communities in Africa that do not have clean water for children under the age of five. Some of these children die long, slow deaths from diarrhea or dysentery or guinea worm, their parents helpless to stop it because they simply do not have the access to clean water they so desperately need. It is not because they don’t love their children as much as you or I do. It’s not because they are lazy. It’s not because Jesus loves them any less than anyone else.
If it was you in those shoes you would pray every day that the people who had the power to do something for your child would do it. And for us in the US it only takes a few clicks. I just donated and it almost made me angry how easy it was to donate $50. You would walk hours a day for water – carrying your newborn baby like my hero Jen Kipsang and then praying and fighting and leading and teaching in your community while you waited for 30 years – even if it was dirty water.
Can we just fix it? This is something that we together can actually fix.