Young enough to know
by Mr. Sheehy
Ellen and I happened across Grunewald’s Crucifixion in volume 9 of the Academic American Encyclopedia, formerly of the Henniker School System, now mostly of the Sheehy bathroom, where it props Ellen’s feet up so she can sit comfortably. It’s a prime example of why I love kids – and of course in particular why I am an overly proud parent. When I saw it as we flipped through in search of colorful birds (that was the assignment, I was not sure whether we were going to find any), I simply said, “Look, here’s a picture of Jesus, when he was being crucified.” I then held the book up and didn’t offer anything else. I let her study it and I waited to see how she’d respond – it’s a bit tougher than the art one would normally show a three year old. But I was not worried too much, because she is familiar with the story.
I did not need to say anything, because she asked about every detail she could see, and when she couldn’t see any more, she asked me to hold the painting closer. She even asked if they nailed him in the stomach, since she saw the blood in his side. I simply answered each question patiently and as best as I could – and I was grateful for the reassuring caption that let me know it was the Apostle John on the left, and that he is holding Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Kids don’t need to be withheld entirely from contact with sadness and evil. They live in this world too – the same dangerous place where I live. But if they’re to learn to function and to grow to an understanding of this fallen world, they should be offered the best understandings and interpretations, like those Grunewald and Grimm – even if it’s raw and sad, or if it contains an evil witch who tries to eat kids and ends up being cooked in an oven. Kids are smart enough to understand – and they’ll find out the truth soon enough, much sooner than we think.
Image located at WebMuseum.