A Convict, a Cadillac, and Great Expectations

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“Jesus Loves the Little Children” was one of the first songs I learned as a child. How precious it has been all my life to know that we are all precious in His sight. When I looked for a photo to illustrate this thought, I looked simply for the word child in the Library of Congress digital photographs. Of the 10,910 images that came up, this was number 15. Isn’t it wonderful?

These children are refugees from Russia. They have just arrived in Constantinople in the early 1900s, after traveling on an American Red Cross relief ship from the port of Odessa on the Black Sea. Each was precious in His sight.

Both the main campus and the cancer center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have free valet parking. What a blessing it was to drive up each day, give our last name to one of the kind drivers, leave our keys on the console, and walk inside. One of the supervisors became a special friend. When Ray’s appointment was finished for the day, we walked back outside, told our name, and waited for a driver to return our car from the parking garage.

One day as we were leaving Vanderbilt after one of Ray’s treatments, he noticed a Cadillac waiting to be parked. He commented that having a Cadillac doesn’t keep you from getting cancer. On several occasions, while I waited in the waiting area for Ray, a prisoner and the prison guards accompanying him waited, too.  One of these prisoners was in a wheelchair. He wore handcuffs on his wrists, while ankle cuffs bound his feet. He chatted with his guards and also greeted me sometimes. One day guards accompanied another prisoner into the waiting room. His steps were shortened by the cuffs around his ankles. I watched as he got up from his seat and shuffled the short distance to the water cooler where he reached for a cup before pouring himself a cup of water.

Today we say prisoner. In Charles Dickens’ day, Englishmen called them convicts. A convict plays a surprising role in Charles Dickens’ powerful novel, Great Expectations, which my father-in-law recommended to my husband when he was a teenager and which Ray read aloud to us during our homeschooling days. That reading is among our favorite memories. I highly recommend Great Expectations. Among its cast of many characters are a hungry convict on the marsh; a simple man whose love is boundless and ever faithful and his mean and spiteful wife; a rich, bitter, and horribly lonely spinster and the adopted daughter she teaches to be wholly self-centered; and Pip, a child who grows into a young man with great expectations. Like other Dickens novels, it has a host of other characters.

In this book, Dickens demonstrates that neither wealth nor beauty nor status nor any other outward characteristic makes one person more valuable than another.

American sculptor Henry Dexter created this bust of Charles Dickens during Dickens’ 1842 visit to America. Dickens was 30 years old at the time. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum acquisition.

The equal value of every person is an essential truth to teach our children. They need to know that all are precious in His sight—rich or poor, pretty or plain, young or old, or any of the other words we might use to pigeonhole people. Parents can demonstrate to them the right way to treat all others all the time, and gently guide them to the right way when they don’t. They can encourage their friendships, while not allowing them to leave others out. It takes diligence and lots of paying attention, but it honors our Father Who made us all.

All are precious in His sight. Jesus taught us that with His words . . .

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:25-30

. . . and through His death on the Cross.

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals;
for You were slain, and purchased for God
with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue
and people and nation.”
Revelation 5:9

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