Welcoming the Cries of a Child

(Photo: Imgur)
(Photo: Imgur)

Have you seen this picture? It’s been shared over and over again on my Facebook mama groups after going viral on Imgur a week ago. I’m sure there are critics out there, but all of the comments I’ve seen are full of praise for this professor who comforted a student’s crying baby as he continued to lecture. He’s been called a “baby whisperer” and that he deserves a medal for this kind act.

Honestly I felt a little “eh” when I first saw this picture, and apparently I’m not alone. In fact the “hero” of the story, Dr. Sydney Engelberg, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a grandfather, is “pretty blasé” about the sudden internet fame thing, according to his wife. He doesn’t seem to think comforting a crying child is a big deal, and that is precisely what is striking a nerve with so many people.

His caring gesture is an act of inclusive welcome that is desperately needed in our communities. 

During my seminary education I remember a classmate bringing her young baby to class. I wasn’t particularly clued into her experience though I can recall a few instances when the professor would acknowledge the baby’s coos and then continue on with the lecture. Mostly the baby sat quietly in the back, practically invisible to the rest of us.

A few weeks ago my husband and I took our daughter on her first plane ride. I was filled with anxiety over the logistics and how our little one would do. As we boarded the plane I could feel the gaze of fellow passengers on us as they eyed our daughter, willing her not to make their trip miserable. I spent both legs of our journey a nervous wreck, my back uncomfortably hunched over to nurse her whenever I sensed a cry coming on.

Have you ever thought about the lyrics to “Away in a Manger”?

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes

I’m here to tell you: Jesus cried, and not just in the Garden of Gethsemane. Like the little boy in the picture–and like all of us–Jesus was a baby who needed comforting love. I wonder if the wise men ever took turns bouncing the baby Jesus on their hips so Mary and Joseph could have a breather.

The picture of the professor and baby reminds us of what it means to be in community with one another. A crying baby is not an inconvenience; it’s an opportunity.

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