Sunlight filters through bright green spring leaves and tenderly illuminates my favorite place beside the stream. Sitting on a stone, I close my eyes and relax.
A breeze caresses my face and carries the scent of fertile soil. I inhale deeply.
The water murmurs a happy song that clears my mind and refreshes my soul.
How fitting that God uses clean, running water as the image of purification.
When I hear gurgling laughs mingle with the music of the whirling water, I awaken from my reveries. Upstream are about ten children and the pastor of the church they belong to; they have come for a day to our house in the countryside.
I guess they’re between six and fourteen years old. Perhaps the closest they have ever come to streaming is the downloading of images from the Internet to their tablet through a Wi-Fi connection while they watch an online film.
Digital generation children.
Ten minutes ago, just after we arrived in the gorge, the older kids complained that their smartphones didn’t pick up the mobile network signal. I notice they’re now chatting with each other instead of with some distant friend through Facebook.
The smaller children, insecure at first, enthusiastically explore their new environment. Little fingers, trained to manipulate keyboards and touch screens, dive deep into the wet clay and mold grey blobs. Hands, used to holding game boys and joysticks, pick up stones and build a dam. Ears, unplugged from MP3 players, register splashes and gushing water. Eyes that normally cling to TVs and computers follow the course of a floating stick that is searching its winding way between the rocks.
Running along the banks, sprinkling one another, they scream and laugh. Some boys try to follow the water downstream as far as possible, jumping from stone to stone, occasionally stepping into the shallow water. A few girls, huddling together, hold their hands under a mini waterfall, and share their awe of the never-ending flow of clear water.
Cloths are smudged, eyes light up. Barbie shoes are beyond recognition, cheeks glow pink.
When it is time to leave, the pastor reminds the children to rinse their hands. I get up to join them. One of the smallest girls stands on the other side of the stream and stretches out her hands, dripping with mud. She seems desperate.
I look at her, concerned. “What’s the problem, honey?”
She doesn’t answer, but looks at her dirty hands, then at the water she can’t reach.
“Would you like me to help you?”
I stand on a rock in the middle of the stream, in front of her, and take hands full of fresh water to clean hers. Scoop after scoop, I wash away the mud from her pulses, her palms, her fingers, the edges of her nails. While washing her, I say a silent prayer.
Please, Lord, let this visit become a vivid memory of living water that cleanses these children’s heads from the digital flow they dive into every day. Not just their hands, Lord, but their minds. Let their minds be purified.
I lift my eyes from the girl’s hands to look at her face. She smiles and, with a spring in her step, rejoins her friends.
(I submitted this article also to the Writing Challenge on the FaithWriters website. The topic was “Digital Detox”. The occasion I describe took place on April 25.)