November 9, 2016

The Kids Know

I woke up this morning under a heavy blanket of sadness.  I knew what had happened last night, but had gone to sleep still hoping there would be something different, that I’d reach for my phone and see that there had been some terrible computing error and all the firewall states had managed to flip.  I was firmly in denial.  But it only took a few seconds in the darkness before daybreak to realize how very real this was.  And the sadness violently overtook me.  I was sad for many varied reasons, but what my tears start to flow was knowing that my five year old, still sleeping in the next bedroom, would come bounding into our room soon and that I would have to find words.    I voted for Hillary Clinton (not against Donald Trump, but proudly and enthusiastically for Hillary Clinton) for a lot of different reasons, but one of the main ones was that she believes in children and families.  I believe in children and families too.  And my greatest sadness came today in worrying about all of our kids.

In no more than a whisper, as if louder words might just be too much, I found some way to begin explaining to my daughter that we were sad that the election hadn’t turned out the way we’d hoped it would.  We were heartbroken for the many people in our country who will feel today that they don’t belong or they are not valued.  I could assure her that she was safe and loved and okay (because of our privilege) and that we had work to do.   I told her that it is our job to love people – all people – the very best we can.

My tears flowed most of the morning and my thoughts continually returned to the children.  How will we repair this damage?  Our actions are louder than our words; how will they grow up to be the kind of compassionate, fierce, sensitive, courageous, gracious, smart, loving and kind people we want them to be when we have just endorsed the polar opposite?  How will we show them it’s okay when we are struggling to believe it ourselves?  How will we channel our fear into action and our uncertainty about the future into resolve? 

I dropped my younger daughter, two and a half years old, off at preschool a few hours later.  We got out of the car and I rushed to carry her into the building, afraid to look other people in the eye and unsure of what trust looks like in this new day.  As I continued to wipe tears from my face I heard her say with complete sincerity, “Mama!  What a beautiful day!  Look, it’s sunny!  See the pretty leaves?”  Today is no different for her.  She still basks in God’s creation, unchanged.  Complete and total innocence protects her from the conflict and drama raging in her broken country.  And for the first moment today I thought: Maybe the children will be okay.  And if they’re okay, we will be too.

I received hugs from dear friends who shared my shock and sadness.  I stumbled through a Bible Study with other moms who struggled with me to keep focused on Paul’s words.  And then I went and spent the afternoon at my kindergartner’s school.  I watched children helping other children in the classroom with learning tasks and personal needs.  I watched children instinctively allow others to go ahead of themselves in line because they wanted to extend a gesture of kindness.  I watched teachers pour out into their students with love and commitment, the same as they do every single day.  I watched laughter and smiles and joy.  And I thought: Maybe the children will be okay.  And if they’re okay, we will be too.

I ended the day back at church.  I lead our children’s Wednesday night programming and over dinner we always share our celebrations and concerns.  I knew that it was likely that one of these kids would bring up the election results during this time and after the pressing matters of Panther’s scores and upcoming travel plans, and a classmate’s friend’s neighbor’s uncle’s pet…. It did.  A second grader started, “Donald Trump is going to be our next president….” and some of the other kids began to boo and gesture ‘thumbs down.’  I cut them off quickly and repeated some of the same words I’d said to my own child this morning.  “It’s okay to be sad.  But we will remain respectful.  It’s our job to love people extra hard.”  And I asked them how we do that.  This is what they said:

  • We can help other kids who are having a hard time.
  • We can write letters to people in the military and encourage them.
  • We can give hugs.
  • If someone has a disability, we can help them reach something or push their wheelchair or tell them that they’re doing a great job.
  • We can give food to people who need it.
  • We can be a friend to someone who is lonely.
  • We can take care of our earth by not polluting.
  • We can make sure that no one feels left out.
  • We can draw pictures to cheer people up.
  • We can stand up for someone we see who is being bullied.
Hands shot into the air and with no prompting, one after another, they said these things and more.  They knew what to do.  They were excited and willing and eager to do it.  Then, one child raised his hand and said, “We just need to follow the golden rule.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  And they all agreed.  It's true: The children will be okay.  And if they’re okay, we will be too.

We finished eating and began tonight’s project – packing boxes of Thanksgiving food for families in our community who might struggle to buy extra groceries.  They wrote on cards “We hope this helps” and “We’re praying for you.”  They filled the bags up enthusiastically and tied bright ribbons around them.  They get it. 

We have work to do.  The kids are telling us that we must take care of people who are needy.  They are telling us that we defend those who are bullied.  They are telling us that we offer help and encouragement in our words and actions to everyone around us.  They are telling us that we create a culture, one by one, where no one is left out.  The kids know what to do.  They are ready to do it.  And I’m ready to join them. 

I woke up this morning, worried about our children.  I go to sleep tonight, encouraged by them.

"Don't get tired of helping others.  You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don't give up."  Galatians 6:9

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