"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matt 9:14
More often then not, we adults can learn important things from young children. Jane G. Meyer's newest picture book The Suitcase has us doing just that! This sweet story celebrates a young child's enthusiasm to put into practice the words of Christ: to feed and clothe the poor; help the needy; and love one's neighbor.
Thomas feels safe in his ordered life on his family's farm. He happily spins in circles for hours while reciting the alphabet, chats with his goat each morning, and then lines up his whole collection of blocks - starting from his upstairs bedroom and ending down in his backyard.
But one Sunday, after coming home from church, Thomas does something unexpected. To the surprise of his questioning family, he shows up at the dinner table with...a suitcase!
When his mother asks him where he's going, he replies, "To the Kingdom of Heaven." As he begins to show his family the contents of his suitcase, they (and we, the readers) are touched by what he's packed, and how he's literally taken to heart the messages of Jesus' parables.
If you're a parent, you have undoubtedly observed that for young children (and especially those on the autism spectrum), abstract ideas can be difficult, so things they hear are often interpreted in a very literal, concrete way.
But shouldn't we all be more like children? Thomas has packed food and clothing for the poor, a platter to serve them, some coins, a mustard seed, and a pearl, among other things.
And thank goodness no one laughs at him when he asks, "So, can I go now?" His father gently explains that the Kingdom of God is right here, and that Thomas - because of his giving heart - has already gone through its gate and is on the path.
The story ends with Thomas's family joining him on his journey, as they share the Kingdom with others by serving a meal to the homeless. May we all be inspired to "pack our bags" with good things for God's Kingdom.
Nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or "There!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst. - Luke 17:21
Chiara Pasqualotto's warm and soothing watercolor illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Jane's sweet storytelling.
Published by Paraclete Press, The Suitcase is available there, and on Amazon.
Click here for Jane's awesome Activity Guide to the book.
NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.