As children across the country return to their classrooms, I share prayers for them in this new school year. I begin with a special prayer for children struggling to beat the odds:
Live child – no matter what!
Don’t let anybody or anything stop you
Like the flowers in the crannied walls
squeezing life as ivy, ferns, molds, and yellow buds
stretching towards the sun
rise from the rocky soil
cling to the naked bumpy walls
work your roots into the tiny crevices, nooks, and crannies of the unfriendly walls of race and class and gender that try to block your way
Live no matter what
lapping up sun’s warmth and rain’s drops
bend with the wind and dance with the breeze
crawl up and down and all around
cover the stone walls with your green coverlet
going on with your life.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the great president of Morehouse College, who shaped so many of my generation including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “I am disturbed, I am uneasy about men because we have no guarantee that when we train a man’s mind, we will train his heart; no guarantee that when we increase a man’s knowledge, we will increase his goodness. There is no necessary correlation between knowledge and goodness.” I share this prayer for 21st-century children and their teachers and parents so that all children will be taught what really matters.
God, help us not to raise a new generation of children
with high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients;
with sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts;
with highly developed computer skills but poorly developed consciences;
with a gigantic commitment to the big “I” but little sense of responsibility to the bigger “we”;
with mounds of disconnected information without a moral context to determine its worth;
with more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation for the magic of life that cannot be quantified or computerized;
and with more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.
God, help us to raise children who care.
I share a final prayer for all of our children.
God, help our children to learn what is real. Help them not to defer to people because they are powerful or rich but because they are good or wise or helpful or loving.
Help them not to defer to people because they are attractive or famous but because they share a mission, a life view, a commitment to something bigger than themselves.
Help them to not defer to people because of race or gender but because they are principled and honest.
We must all do our part each day to teach the next generation what we really value – as a nation and a people!
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to staging.childrensdefense.org.
Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on Mom’s Rising.