Tag Archive | trayvon martin

Oh, ho, what I want to know, is are you kind

Here’s the song reference.

While I have not posted any additional lesson plans (yet), rest assured that lesson planning for the new school year continues at a frenetic pace.  The “First Americans” unit of this year’s study of American history has taken on a life of its own, and may well encompass an entire year of study by the time we’re done; Bugaboo and Beanie keep finding new and fascinating nuggets in the books I’ve checked out from the library, which has led to more field trips being added, more projects being planned, and . . . well, you get the idea.

I am mindful, however, that our children learn from us whether school is officially in session or not.  One lesson my husband and I have endeavored to teach our children is that when there are terrible things in the news, it is better to simply turn off the television, the radio, and the computer, and go find something constructive to do.  It is rarely useful to sit around, gawking, while people who have more opinions than facts attempt to increase advertising revenues for their stations or sites by provoking responses of intense anger or fear.

There was a recent decision by a certain jury in a certain criminal trial in a certain city in the state of Florida that has greatly upset, according to all media reports and my Facebook news feed, quite a number of people.  It seems as though the overwhelming response to the verdict is to look for someone to blame, someone to accuse, someone to find loathsome or frightening or hateful.

We have chosen differently.

This morning, as on many summer mornings, we headed to the park with a cooler full of snacks and water, hoping to meet our usual group of friends in spite of the oppressive heat and humidity.  While we did not see any of “our crowd” there, we did meet up with a group of gentlemen who live in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities, a lady training a puppy, and about a dozen children (with their mothers) whom we had not previously met.  There were also a couple of fellows who work for the Parks and Recreation department taking care of some playground maintenance.  We had plenty of company, in other words, of all ages, abilities, and skin tones.

Our cooler was full of snacks and water, as I mentioned before, and the gentlemen from the group home were sitting, along with their assistants, a couple of tables away from our base camp.  As members of my tribe returned to the table for something to eat or drink, I asked them if they would like to share anything from our cooler with the other occupants of the picnic shelter.  Bugaboo offered water to the girls with whom she’d been playing tag, Mr. Man offered marshmallows to the Parks and Recreation employees, and Baby Guy scrunched up his face and hollered, “NO!  MY SNACK! MY CUPPY! NO!”

We’re still working on that one.  Hey, he just turned two, after all.

After a moment of sober consideration, Beanie took the bag of pretzel Goldfish from our cooler and walked over to the other group occupying the shelter.  She looked up into the face of the first man she came to, smiled, and inquired, “Would you like to share my snack?  I have plenty, and it’s really yummy.”  The fellow beamed, and eagerly reached for the bag.  One of the assistants with the group quickly offered a cup to hold some of the little crackers, then started laughing when he realized that Beanie intended to go around to each and every member of the group, offering to share her bag of fishies.  She also offered them to the aides, and told them, “You were so kind to give everybody cups for their snacks.  Wouldn’t you like to have a snack, too?”

We smiled together.  We ate pretzel goldfish under a picnic shelter together, while some of the other moms at the park looked on incredulously.  Mr. Man came back, helped himself to a couple of the remaining crackers, and sat down amongst the men, introducing himself and asking if their favorite snack was fishies.  When we left for the library about a quarter of an hour later, we exchanged farewells and hopes we would meet again with our new friends.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that sharing pretzel goldfish at the park will solve any of the world’s problems.

I do have faith enough to teach my children that if we seek common ground with everyone we meet, even if it’s something as simple as the need for shade on a hot day, and practice kindness with everyone we meet, and share the gifts we have to give freely, without conditions, categories, or condescension, then we will be following the Great Commandment:  “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy strength, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the kindness of the people who accepted the small gift offered by a little girl and the companionship of a little boy, without hesitation or fear.  Thank You for Your little blessings who see Your face in every person they meet, and for always putting people in our path with whom we can share Your bountiful gifts.  Please, Lord, keep my heart simple, that I may recognize Your image and likeness in every human being and offer to them the love I bear towards You, and grant me the grace to train up the children with whose care You have entrusted me that this is the way they should go, that when they are grown, they shall not depart from it.  Please infuse our every thought, word, and deed with such love that we shall be a beacon to all people, pointing them to You and away from all divisions sown by Your adversary.

Get up, stand up

I think it’s fair to say I’m not the only parent who’s been thinking about what to teach my children in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s senseless, tragic death.  I like iced tea and Skittles, too, and have been known to wear a hoodie in the rain.  My kids aren’t old enough to drink iced tea yet, but they all think Skittles are pretty tasty, and that a hoodie in the rain’s not a bad idea, and is easier than carrying an umbrella.

While perusing the Sunday paper after Mass today, I read this column by Mr. Jesse Washington, about things he believes he will need to teach his son.  There are lessons in this piece for most parents, and I found that the good Mr. Washington and I will both be instructing our children in the need to conduct and present themselves with dignity and humility.  I’d like to believe that we live in a world where every parent teaches his or her children the value of those two character traits, but experience, alas, teaches me this is not so.

One of the things we strive to teach our children is that when they see something amiss, something wrong, they are to speak up and call whatever they’ve seen by its proper name.  Bugaboo has a bit of a reputation at one of the local grocery stores for her comment regarding a group of teenaged girls, fresh from some sort of cheer or dance competition, all of whom were wearing spangled brassieres and hot pants.  My oldest daughter looked at me, aghast, and exclaimed, “Mommy!  Those girls’ mommies forgot to put clothes on them!”

Feel free to laugh.  Pretty much everyone who was in Wegmans that afternoon did, with the exception of the girls’ parents.  We are still working on how to point out inappropriate things without being rude.

That said, I’m making a little change in our lesson plans tomorrow.  We’ve been working our way through the Stations of the Cross, and talking about things we can do to walk more closely in friendship with Him who suffered unjust persecution and death, all so that we might be freed from sin.  Tomorrow, though, we’re going to read Matthew 22:39, and use it as our memory verse.  If you’re not familiar with the verse, it’s the one that says, “The second is like it:   You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

There are certain subjects that are very, very tough when talking to very young children.  The ways people have developed to excuse treating each other cruelly are among those, but, as with any important topic, we want to start early.  We are raising children who love fiercely enough to question a friend, a sibling, a parent, or even a total stranger when they observe a behavior that they know to be contrary to Christ’s teachings.  Responding to a person whose skin or hair differs from their own with fear and suspicion, based solely on those phenotypic characteristics, is a monumental sin.  Galatians 3 is EXTREMELY clear on this point, and this will likely be part of our lesson tomorrow as well, as 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I would have our children grow up without Peter’s fear. I do not want them to have to listen, metaphorically, for the cock to crow on a day in which one of their brethren is condemned unjustly.  Because of this, I will teach my children that among those behaviors a friend of Christ condemns is suspicion of a person based solely on the color of his or her skin.

I want my kids to ask, “What did he do wrong?” when they hear someone speak harshly about another person.  Then I want them to explain, with great love and tenderness, that Jesus, on the cross, did not have a checklist of desirable “racial” groups, and nor should followers of Christ.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, in Your wisdom, You made Your children in all sizes and colors, no two with precisely the same appearance or set of talents.  Thank you for the never-repeating diversity of our human family, which teaches us that since we are ALL made in Your image, we cannot begin to comprehend what Your face looks like.  Your blessings cherish all of their friends, and so far, it’s never occurred to them that any kid is disqualified from being their friend because of his or her ancestry.  Help me teach Your blessings that it is pleasing to You to love all of their neighbors as themselves, and even more pleasing when they speak in defense of those who are unjustly accused.  Grant them, and me, the courage to speak hard truths lovingly, without rancor, and without compromise.