Searching for the Sacred Moments

They sat, cross legged, faces turned upward, their hands held open in front of them. The baptismal font stood above them, sheltering their presence with its invitation to belong.

One eager boy, younger and smaller than the rest, ran to join in for the children’s sermon, then turned back to his mother. Then, just as suddenly, he turned and scooted into place beside a much taller boy. Occasionally, he waved to his mother, seeking reassurance while spreading his smile for all to see. Several times he whispered to the boy next to him who, with a finger to his lips, begged him to be quiet.

The minister, to emphasize the meaning of acceptance and belonging, invited them to dip their hands in the water. Swishing the water around, splashing a bit on each other and themselves, they joined together in play and in ceremony of their own awakening faith.

All except one.

Try as he might, standing on his tiptoes and jumping up and down, he simply was too short to reach the water.

It was then, as if the world in the form of the congregation, stood on the steps of eternity, waiting for a sacred moment.

And it happened.

An older member stepped from his pew, swooped the boy up in his arms and held him so that he too could dip his hands in the water and so that he too could belong.

It was indeed, a sacred moment.

Far apart from this moment, and yet so very close, the world explodes in violence, fear, anger and hate. Political discourse in America’s election year is filled with condemnation, half-truths and spite. In the midst of it all, young children,  reaching their hands eagerly to belong, are ignored, or even worse, used as tools to tout a candidates embrace of “family values!”

The real needs of children, should be apparent to all. They should not be murdered, or allowed to unknowingly kill by the ease of access to guns. They should not be hungry. They should not be deprived of day care, school lunch, a clean bed in which to sleep, a safe place to run and jump and play and always they should never be without  some one to lift them up and dangle their hands in the waters of a caring world.

In this country, there are abundant resources to make all those things happen. What is lacking in the political dialogue is the will to do so. Until there comes a time when children are valued enough so that they are picked up and carried in our arms of power and concern, we will have to continue searching for the sacred moments that invite everyone to belong.

 

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Waiting in the Wings

Their words bounce around, blasting the air like overinflated basketballs, exhorting all who will listen to vote! Choose me they shout, declaring that they and they alone will provide the solutions to all of America’s concerns.

America will be made great again! Our borders will be made safe! Immigrants will be kept out! Big business will be made to pay! The Constitution will be protected! No one will mess with our right  to bear arms! Terrorists will be bombed into oblivion!

And so it goes. These words and many more like them, bouncing off the media walls, proclaim to represent the needs of the nation and its future.

What is not being said, however, are the most important words of all. Largely ignored, except for an occasional afterthought, are those who wait in the wings for the time they will move onto the stage of the future and inherit  the consequences of words unsaid. Patiently and expectantly they wait. Their hope is that they will hear, in the midst of all the rhetoric, words that will lead to a foundation upon which they may stand that will declare the world they inherit to be habitable and safe.

It is they, our children, who wait.

And why do they want to hear that which is not being said? They wait to hear words of reassurance that they will be safe from the violence of guns; they want to breathe air that is clean and refreshing and they do not want to live on a planet tormented by nature’s wrath as the globe warms to dangerous levels. As they wait to move onto the stage they will occupy, they fidget in anticipation of good schools, enough food to eat and safe and welcoming homes and neighborhoods – no mater what color of skin they have or religious beliefs they hold. When they are sick, injured or in pain, they want to be cared for by systems of care, not buried in debt.

Yes, those waiting in the wings for their time to enter the stage want to hear many things. Thus far, however, they have only heard words that are empty, devoid of substance, and designed to blame, divide and confuse. It seems time that those who seek to be the leaders of today should listen closely to the cries of those who will play on the  stages of  the future.

It is time to pay attention to those waiting in the wings. It is time to think of our children. For those who choose to do so, it might just be possible that from among them will come the leaders we all need.

 

 

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…..”tis the Season

From the piped in music at the mall to  the sounds coming through the doors of places of worship around the world, the messages of the season are clearly heard. Joyous songs of faith, lilting lyrics with a holiday flair and the ubiquitous accolades to Santa and his reindeer all collide in a tumultuous, sometimes raucous, announcement that, once again, its time to celebrate.

But celebrate what?

Amid the visits with family and friends, the buying of gifts, the feasting, the holiday parties and a few days of well earned rest, is there more? What about that one commonly used phrase “……peace on earth and good will to men…..” Is there something more of the season in those words?

A small sign in the window of a seldom visited business had something to say about peace. “If you want peace,” the words  announced, “then work for justice.”

Is “peace on earth” tied to a cry for justice that can barely be heard with all those competing sounds of the season filling the air? And is it just possible that the birth of a baby  hailed by hundreds of millions around the world as the “Prince of Peace” in reality is an announcement that there will be no peace unless justice forces its presence into the consciousness of humankind.

Perhaps. But if one chooses to equate the two then there is plenty to do now that will address the birth of every child on the planet.

How about a safe and welcoming place to live, far from the roaring avalanche of the wars that those who never knew or understood justice heap on us all?

A community where all are accepted because that baby whose season we celebrate grew to teach that justice wasn’t selective.

Or perhaps a living wage for work well done so that those who care for the children in their lives can do so with pride and purpose.

Food to satisfy and nourish. Schools where minds are opened and questioning is encouraged. Neighborhoods free from violence and  places where the sign “no smoking” is next to the one that says “no guns!” Clean air to breathe and places to run.

Yes, justice means many things for babies to grow and children to thrive if they are to be surrounded by peace.

“Tis then the season to remember once again that peace on earth begins with the children.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Take Your Guns to Town

In 1958, Johnny Cash sang the iconic ballad, “Don’t Take Your Gun to Town ”

It  was the plea of a mother to her son, who, in his bravado, ignored her warning and dies at the hand of someone who was faster on the draw. The ballad ends with the last words of the dying boy…Don’t take your gun to town.”

That was was a theme that found its home in the ’50’s a scant decade after the horrible killing fields of the Second World War as both a warning and a prophecy.

“Don’t take your guns to town, son”

He took his gun to church and nine people died. Some have said that those in the church should have been armed and killed him first.

In a place of peace, in a sanctuary of hope, at an altar of light…..Don’t take your gun to church, son”

He took his gun to school and the innocent children died. Some said the teachers should be armed and so kill him first. “Don’t take your gun to school, son”

He took his gun to the campus and his fellow students died. Some thoughtmore armed guards should have killed him first. “Don’t take your gun to the campus, son”

And so the killing goes on, the guns more easily obtained and the cries of those who mourn, m

And those who lie dying, cry out, “don’t take your guns to town, son!”

Isn’t it about time the killing stopped? Isn’t it time we called forth leaders with the courage to stand against those who live by the gun and cry out: No More?

Isn’t it time to stop taking the guns to town?

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Waiting in Hope

In his 1891 painting, titled ,THE DOCTOR, Sir Samuel Luke Fildes depicts a physician, deep in thought and no doubt filled with worry, sitting by the bed of an obviously ill child. The bottle on the beside table probably contains only some medicinal hope just as the physician’s power to heal too was more of hope than of scientific knowledge. Still, there he sits, while the anxious family looks on, waiting.
As the year draws to an end and the season of holiday celebrations of all kinds erupt around us, we too are waiting. Equipped with science, technology of all sorts, the happenings of the world at our fingertips and with the power of incredible knowledge not even dreamed about in 1891, we too are sitting and waiting in hope.
We wait in hope that the pain and loneliness of a shelter, instead of a home, where children must look for but never touch the security and the comfort of someone who cares, will disappear into the carols, the crowds in the mall and the ringing of church bells
We wait, hoping that the collection of gifts for the poor and the Salvation Army’s kettle will be their hope as well.
We wait, with some vague idea that solutions for lifting children and families out of poverty and into life will come from the hope we have placed on those elected to serve us.
We wait in the hope that the institutions of faith, some of which even now are celebrating the birth of a child, will gather their strength and message around the bedsides of all humanity leading the parade of hope rather than treading the path of judgement and condemnation.
We wait, hoping that someone, some group, some humanitarian effort will bring light to the darkness of those who sit on the margins of life.
Deep inside, we too are an anxious family, standing by the bedside of the growing number of children in poverty who all too often are ill fed, marginally educated and chronically devoid of hope that ultimately erupts into anger and seethes with despair.
We long for the likes of Sir Samuel’s patient physician to produce a rare and miraculous cure for all the children whose lives are lived in the pain of neglect.
Until that happens however, we wait,
And we hope.

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Food for Thought

Thanksgiving, that great American feast day, will soon be upon us. Tables will be laden with more food than can be imagined, services beckoning the faithful will be held and many treasured moments with kith and kin will be stored for future reflections. Indeed, a very remarkable celebration for countless millions. But, however, not for all.

True, multiple numbers of food baskets, complete with all the trimmings of a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, are prepared for the poor; the homeless are welcomed to community tables and wayfaring strangers are bid welcome for a hearty meal.

Then comes the day after Thanksgiving. What then of the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the stranger no longer welcome? How are they to be fed? Housed? Invited into the circle of human warmth?

Food for Thought.

Would jobs that paid a living wage so people could eat and have a place to live be too difficult to comprehend for a nation that gives thanks around the table of plenty?

Would affordable and accessible health care for everyone be too much of a stretch for politicians to notice in their constant squabble over power?

Would quality preschool care and stimulating and healthy environments for our youngest citizens be too difficult an agenda to place on the table of thanksgiving?

Would it be too much to ask for a system of justice that treats all persons equally and fairly to still be a part of the American dream?

Perhaps, we who are fortunate to be able to gather with family and friends in the security of the places where we worship, or the comfort and warmth of our homes while we sit at a table laden with the feast of Thanksgiving, should pause to think of the days and weeks that stretch into years of need for those who desire a life defined by more than the gestures of an occasional feast day.

Food for thought?

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The Blue Ribbon Days of April

Finally, comes April!

Winter’s hold weakens and warmer days are like blue ribbons awarded to those who greet April’s gifts with eager anticipation.

But all “Blue Ribbon Days” are not reminders of nature’s new awakening, dreams of longed for vacations or the planting of spring gardens.
Each April, there is another kind of “Blue Ribbon Day.” Ribbons are tied to trees and other places to remember those who are victims of child abuse and to remind every one of the terrible price millions of our children are paying each year because of abuse and neglect.

In America, at least four children die each day from abuse. Over 4 million reports of abuse and neglect, involving 6 million children,are made each year. Victims of abuse grow up being abusers and murderers, perform poorly in school and occupy a disproportionate share of space in prisons.

And each year, in April,we tie blue ribbons to trees to remember them.

Is there not something we can do to stop this disgrace and this unbridled disease that is killing our children?

Prevention of abuse means addressing the causes. Prevention however becomes a very complex problem, given that there is no single cause, or even a grouping of causes of abuse. Perhaps then, a different approach is needed. It would seem feasible that a major campaign, marshaling community, state and national resources, along with public policy support, could be effective if focused on just one or two of the most common and recurring factors associated with abuse. Once identified, then a full-scale effort directed at those causes could have a much better chance of making a lasting impact, increasing prevention and providing opportunities for healing.

Granted, such an approach will take the dedication of elected officials, committed citizens and the judicious use of funds that will still not totally eradicate the dark cloud of abuse hovering over our children. Still, such a new look is justified if April is to become a true “Blue Ribbon Month” and not one that remembers the ever-increasing numbers of the deaths of our children.

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