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Synod through Lent: Lesson in a visit to the zoo

By Fr Donald Chambers

“. . . with a little boy to lead them” (Isaiah 11: 6)

Recently, I had a light bulb moment. I finally realised the significance of a child in leading the People of God on the Synod logo. What was the context of the revelation?

As part of my babysitting, I took a two-and-a-half-year-old boy to the zoo in Port of Spain. I was extremely excited because I thought he would be excited. Two nights before, I read him a bedtime story about a panda, and I said to him, “Let’s go to the zoo to search for the panda!”

While I was thrilled moving from one cage to another, I noticed that he was interested but not particularly super excited or focused on the animals. He was more engrossed with the mechanics of the water pipes and valves inside and outside the cage and how they functioned.

Two examples sprang to mind.

First, in the aquarium house, we stopped to observe each fish tank. While I was preoccupied with reading to him the info on each fish, his eyes were transfixed on the bubbles dancing upwards in the tank, and he enquired, “Where is it coming from?”

Second, at the giraffe cage, he was more fascinated with a nearby fire extinguisher. “What’s that? How does it work?” I explained and even dramatised how it worked, and my explanation lodged in his memory. For the rest of the day, he constantly mimicked the sound of the fire extinguisher.

On this zoo journey, this little boy taught me that everyone on the synodal journey has their own interests and concerns. Rather than imposing our own, we are to create space for everyone to tell us about their concerns and interests. That’s part of the listening.

At the end of the zoo journey, it wasn’t about my interests and concerns, but the child’s.