From One to Astrophysics and Back

Lara Schopp Articles, Joe Walker

At first glance, two books could not seem more different. Who Counts? is a numbers book for children ages 3-8 based on scripture stories. I pretty much “get” that one. The other is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Everything I know about astrophysics I learned from “The Jetsons.”

In Who Counts? the familiar Gospel parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son are faithfully presented for young audiences by preeminent theologians Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Margaux O. Meganck’s beautiful illustrations place the stories in contemporary settings.

Adults preparing to read Who Counts? with children will find it helpful to review Levine and Sasso’s exegetical notes. The authors have re-directed our attention to the lessons they believe the earliest disciples would have learned when they heard Jesus tell these stories. “The main message,” the authors explain, “is about counting, searching for what is missing, and celebrating becoming whole again.”

Which brings us to Tyson’s best-seller. He certainly wants to share his passion for science and discovery. But beyond that Tyson hopes that a renewed sense of wonder will stir spiritual (his word) awakenings and call us to live as our most noble, best self.

In his conclusion Tyson writes,
“When I pause and reflect on our expanding universe, with its galaxies hurtling away from one another, embedded within the ever-stretching, four-dimensional fabric of space and time, sometimes I forget that uncounted (emphasis added) people walk this Earth without food or shelter, and that children are disproportionately represented among them.”

In the great tradition of Jesus’ parables, Levine and Sasso suggest intriguing age-appropriate questions for children, “Is there someone I take for granted? What, or whom, have I forgotten to count?”

Perhaps, after the little one has drifted off to sleep on our lap and we are softly rocking in that sacred moment, we might revisit those questions for ourselves.

P.S. Who Counts? is featured in The Well.