On our way to the Church of the Nativity, we walked through Bethlehem Square. My friend and I were lagging a bit behind the group and saw this mother and son, pushing a goat in a grocery cart. My friend snapped this picture. As the pair drew closer, I asked if I could take a photo, and the mother responded with an indignant ‘no.’ I did not know Muslims forbid photos. Besides, it was a sad day for this family. This goat was on its way to be sold.
Later we came upon them pushing a now empty grocery cart. Rationally, I know this goat was not this boy’s pet. Yet, I imagine this young lad raising the goat from a kid, tending to its needs, shepherding it through small fields sparsely peppered with grasses, and growing familiar with the goat’s personal likes, dislikes, and independent will. Even though this goat was merely livestock, I imagine it was a bit of a loss to part with it.
It struck me how differently children in the West Bank live from American children. Many Palestinian children must work and help support their families from a very young age. They learn the value of hard work. They learn that life is tough, but they learn never to give up. Do what is necessary; don’t dwell on the hardships. No whiny children in Bethlehem!
I hope and pray these children also know the joy of shared friendship, feel the peace of a sunset over the desert hills, take pride in the satisfaction of a job well done, and most importantly, know they are loved by a good and gracious God. My prayer for this shepherd boy is that he will also feel the same joy and awe of the shepherds from a nearby pasture who, 2,000 years ago, rejoiced with the angels over the newborn king!
“My soul will glory in the Lord. Let the poor hear and be glad.” Psalm 34:3
Lord, help us to be grateful for pets and plenty of food to eat, and help us detach from our unnecessary “stuff.”
Sharon Bohlen has been a teacher at St. Andrew School for 12 years. She has made 2 previous pilgrimages to the Holy Land and is preparing for yet another one in November with other Archdiocesan teachers through the HOPE Project (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education).