St. Nicholas,

pray for children everywhere!

One of the legends of this remarkable saint portrays the Bishop of Myra rescuing three children from a butcher's vat. Perhaps it's the historical-critical methodologist in me speaking, but I'm inclined to see this as a fanciful retelling of a horrible truth: children are often preyed upon by evildoers. Not just marginally and not just in far-off places and not just once upon a time in Asia Minor. Children everywhere are forced into militias, they are sought after by pedophiles, and they are barraged with images of sex in our media.

Very few children are allowed to be children anymore. If they are fortunate enough to be born in America or into wealth, they will often be spoiled by material abundance, have little time for play, and become increasingly at risk for obesity and diabetes. Children are raised by abusive or neglectful parents, parents who don't enforce appropriate expectations, parents who shouldn't hit their children and do, parents who don't punish their children and should. Children who are born into poverty will suffer any myriad array of maladies including crippling disease, tooth decay, and abbreviated lifespan. Some children don't know what clean water tastes like, others are exposed to chemicals, and some can't go to school. Some children are forced to raise their siblings, and some have no memory of their parents. Some children won't be fortunate enough to be born.

Children most of all suffer from foreign policymakers' decisions. Children suffer when social libertarians have their way about what's best for society. Children suffer when the mystery and beauty and imagination of life is denied them.

Today, if you have a child fortunate enough to know your love and care, then remind them that God loves them and St. Nicholas loves them and help a child who lacks this truth, either by donation or prayer. Instead of lavishing your child with more and more stuff, consider spending a portion of that money on children in need. When Nicholas heard that three young women would be sold into prostitution because their father could not afford a dowry for any of them, he provided the gold necessary for their dowries with a quiet act of kindness- dropping it through the chimney where they would find it in the morning- the answer to their prayers.

If you can afford it and your children have more than they need-- give. In the spirit of St. Nicholas, be generous! Answer a child's prayer today. It may be the best thing you can do for your own child, to teach them to help one in need.

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