Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like little children,
you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven
Matthew 18:3

Cris with grandson Gabriel.

I want to tell you about the time I was saved by a child.

The circumstances were not what you might expect. I was physically in the prime of life—what the Jamaicans might call “in my ackee.” I was also “nigh unto death.” I knew, certainly I felt, that I would not be able to hold out much longer.

The year was 1981 and I was in Sweden. During the preceding year, circumstances in life had led me to start reading the Bible, and by October I had gone through it cover-to-cover. I found much to admire in the sacred text; I also came across many confusing passages, and some things that I sensed were essential for me to face and consider on the deepest of levels. This fragment from a poem I wrote describes some of the thoughts and feelings I had at the time:

Do you know? Tell me if you do
Did he rise from the dead?
Did he even live?
And if he lived, what difference does it make?
The miracles, the sainted words…
Were they invented or true?
Jesus was the best of all, I’d come to conclude
But like a man who tries to swim from California to Hawaii
I’d come up short
Disappearing some fifteen miles offshore
And now I ask in all sincerity
Is there any point in wondering who God is
Or if a man can reach him somehow
Or even a part of him understand?
Is it madness to think there’s a way?
Let me hang my harp on the limbs of these trees
Let me die in this foreign land far from home
There’s no way back
No way for me
If I had lived in the Lord’s country
If I had fingered his cloak as he walked by
If I had been a blind beggar healed by his touch
Maybe then
But here I am
Trapped centuries on
With nothing much to go on
But a paperback New Testament
Printed in the USA
I sit with foreigners and dogs
Jostling for space under the table
Hoping for some crumbs to fall my way
Or his dusty feet to come near enough
For me to seize and kiss
But no wine drips through the table cracks
There is no food to pass around
No dust softening the air
No shouting to mark his passing
All I can do is sit and cry
Cris with granddaughter Caitlin

What could possibly save me? And then, as I sat there despondent by the Motala River, I began to sing a song which surfaced from, I suspect, a distant childhood memory of Sunday School:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Immediately, I made an association between the song lyrics and the verse from Matthew chapter 18. The poem continues:

Then something seems to come to mind
That verse where he said
Truly I say to you, unless you change
and become like little children,
you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven
I say it aloud and sing after that
I lift my voice in praise
I’m yours, Lord,
Yours for life
Spoken as a child might

That, my friend, is how a child saved me.

Cris with grandchildren Gabriel, Sofia, and Esther 

I still ask for children’s help, by the way. I ask them to help me forgive others readily, from the heart, and return to play. I ask them to remind me to hop and skip, and not just walk. I ask them to help me laugh and sing and babble in foreign languages. I ask them to show me God.

In 2007, I was living in Mexico City in a gated community of townhomes. There were many children there and most afternoons after school, they could be seen and heard playing in the commons area. I remember how soothing their voices were as they laughed and shouted happily. I was carrying some heavy burdens at the time, but the weight was always lifted—if even a little—in the presence of these dear children.
I wrote this poem at the time:

the shouts of children reach my ears
others in the compound hear it, too—
children at play as twilight lingers
grown-ups peer through metal blinds
upset by the laughter they hear outside
the shrieks of children in gathering gloom
but i say
let the children play
let them dance in the dark
let them run and shout
keep the world away
tomorrow’s soon enough
let the children play
they teach us what is true
their eyes reflect the moon
their laughter fills the eve
let the world stay away
let it come tomorrow
let the children play
once, we were like them
still are today
if only for a little while
let the children play
do not interrupt
be careful—i say—
tomorrow’s soon enough
let the children play
Cris with grandchildren Rhys, Cosette, and Siena

When I was six or seven years old, a friend of my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied that I wanted to be one of three things: a gas station attendant, a garbageman who got to ride on the back of the garbage truck, or the President of the United States.
I’ve since revised my wish list. Now when I grow up, I would like to be an educated child—not childish but childlike. I may not graduate in this lifetime, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.
And you, my friend? What is your view of the children in your life? Have you stopped to consider that they might just have the power to save your soul?
With love and affection,

This is the book that inspired Cris to make The Puzzle Factory. The contents of its pages were not originally intended for publication. Let Me Have My Son contains, primarily, letters written on behalf of his son, Daniel, who at the time had been a patient in mental hospitals in Virginia and Mexico for seven years...

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Cristóbal Krusen is a filmmaker and author. He founded Messenger Films in 1988.

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