Photo: Child of Vision. Baby eye in black and white. Iezalel Williams. Public domain.
I’m a hopeful person. A hopeful writer. I created this blog in hopes that whomever encountered it would come away feeling uplifted. There’s already too much in the world pulling us down, every day. Burdens can pile until one hardly feels able to move. Grief is like this. Depression is like this. Oppression is like this.
Always, I am looking for a way, or writing my way, through to the better I believe is there. That, to me, is hope. Coming through. Knowing that possibility exists, sensing it, even when I cannot see exactly what it looks like. Eventually it reveals itself. And so I hope.
Yesterday I read that hope is not enough for one of humanity’s biggest burdens. Not COVID-19, which will eventually pass, although it will destroy many more of us before it is done. But we will be fighting diseases as long as we’re alive. No—hope is not enough, in itself, to remove the unbearable burden of racism.
As hopeful as I am, I know this is true.
Yesterday evening I watched a news segment featuring families talking to their children about racism. Black families, families with brown skin. A beautiful little girl—little girl—coached by her dad on how to respond if she should be singled out by those in law enforcement. Eyes wide, brow slightly knit in concentration, the child dutifully repeated everything her dad taught her on how to move, how to hold her hands … she covered it all. Dad paused in his feedback. He nodded. Then he said, quietly: “I did all that. And they still tased me.” The little girl’s face froze, then crumpled. Weeping, she climbed into her father’s lap, into his arms.
Another parent, a mother, said that as awful as it is to burden her children with this knowledge, it’s ultimately for their protection. They need to know.
A boy and another little girl from different families said they know it’s wrong for people to treat each other this way. “We are all human,” said the boy, a young teen. “It doesn’t matter what color skin anybody has,” said the girl (is she maybe six? seven?). “We should all be good to each other and love each other.”
Love one another.
The greatest spiritual journey we can ever take.
Loving means bearing each other’s burdens; it does not mean hoping the burdens go away. It means putting love into action, working to remove the burden, the systems, the structures that oppress others. The possibility is there; our hearts just have to be burdened enough, collectively, to usher it into reality.
For what’s the alternative? Hopelessness. The deadliest thing of all.
As I tried to sleep last night, so many images flooded my mind. Mostly children. Many I’ve known over the years. Black, brown, white faces, eyes full of light, little arms open wide, always ready to give away their love. How easily laughter, wonder, song, and joy come to them … my daughter-in-law texted that my granddaughter woke up singing yesterday morning, before she got out of bed: “Everyone is a star, and everyone has to see how strong and powerful, and everyone has to see how much I love you and how much I’ve grown.” She is four. The thought of anyone robbing the pureness of her heart is … inhuman. It should not happen to any child. Ever. But it does. It is the most terrible of dichotomies, that the big love we have for one another as children does not grow as we do. If it did, the world would be an entirely different place … and if we have any hope of it being better, it begins with acting now. Understanding now. Changing now. Breaking out of age-old racist, prejudiced molds that may have shaped us, now … or they remain intact, shaping those who follow.
I remembered a thing last night, as I finally fell asleep only to dream about children (babies, in fact, standing in a crib, laughing because they’d just learned to pull themselves up). Somewhere there is a photo of me in a crib with my doll, Suzy. So long ago. I saw her in the store while shopping with my grandmother. Beautiful doll. What was it about Suzy that I loved? Her dark eyes, like my own? Black hair and skin, not like mine? I don’t even remember the shopping trip; my Grannie told me years later how I asked for that doll. So she, a white woman from the rural South, bought it for me—in the late 1960s.
Every day, every action, great and small, every word … colors the picture of society that the children see.
That’s us, reflected in their eyes.
In kindergarten I drew a family picture that made my mother angry: “Why did you have to draw me with a cigarette?”
I blinked, and couldn’t respond: Because … I always see you smoking.
On my mind when I go to bed.
On my mind when I wake.
Not just my own
or ones I’ve known.
So full of love.
So full of song.
So free with their giving
in everyday living.
We hand them the crayons.
Blank sheets of paper.
And set little hearts so earnestly
to coloring the world they see.
Is there a crayon called Hope?
To color Tomorrow?
And what will that picture be
if they copy you and me?
My little granddaughter once explained sadness this way: “I was crying with my blue eyes.”
I know, Baby. Same as I cry with my brown ones.
Everyone is a star, and everyone has to see how strong and powerful … let us all keep loving. And growing. And working together to help and heal. Daily finding the way.
That, I’d say, is what hope really looks like.
From my granddaughter’s heart: I love you so very much.
Special thanks to Ruth Hersey for hosting Spiritual Journey Thursday, and to all my friends and sojourners. You are welcome to continue the journey by reading their thoughts on the theme of Hope here.
8 thoughts on “On children and hope: Spiritual Journey Thursday”
Fran, this is a beautiful, beautiful post. The last stanza of your poem is really strong,
“Is there a crayon called Hope?
To color Tomorrow?
And what will that picture be
if they copy you and me?”
I remember getting into some kind of trouble for what I colored too–why didn’t our teachers see a need to talk about why we drew what we drew? Goodness, it’s time for more love, more bearing the burden of others and talking about how to do that. Thank you.
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Thank you, Linda, for this moving response … I recall watching a young child coloring a picture she drew of police coming to her house (domestic dispute). Drawing is that early, vital means of expression, observing and replicating the world as a young child sees it … the mind and heart on the page as much as any of our writing is. They need freedom to do it and share it as they wish – indeed.
Fran: Your poem brought me to tears… but good tears! Crying with my blue eyes… Yes… we need to be aware that everything we do and say makes an impact on our children. If we could just do a better job of that… Thank you so much for sharing.
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They are watching and learning more than we realize … we must be so clear and mindful in the messages we send to the children, and to one another. Thank you for your encouraging and heartfelt words, Karen.
Fran, I am so glad that you joined us today. I agree with Linda about the strength of your last stanza. I am wondering why we cannot see children grown into adulthood and honor them for who they are not the color of their skin.
I just caught the end of George Floyd’s memorial service. It was so sad especially when we were asked to remain quiet for the entire 9 minutes of Floyd’s last minutes on earth. How could hate be witnessed on TV and not affect the entire human race? It is with hope that I read your post and poem, looked at the faces of those at the service, and prayed for change. Thank you for noting that it’s time for more love…
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Nine minutes feels like eternity, now.
Now is a time for close examination of so many things … I am working on expanding my thinking about what is possible, and how. Hope in action … I know many police departments have, before now, been working on ways to foster better relationships with communities they serve, vs. employing unnecessary force and abusing power or authority. The first duty of government (and its agents) is to protect its citizens, not to destroy them in acts of hatred and prejudice. We ARE all in this together, as human beings on this Earth. Change … a quote of Lucy Maud Montgomery returns to mind: “All things great are wound up in all things little.” Large-scale change begins in each individual’s heart, in deep awareness, mindfulness, self-examination, committing to rid self of bias first … it is vital to life now at this very moment as well as moving forward … that is what made me think of the children, who are absorbing our every action, reaction, and word.
Thank you for your heart and words, Carol – for hope, too, transcends the individual heart, stirring that of others to see what is possible. Hate will kill it. Love gives it hands, feet, and wings.
Your words: “…let us all keep loving. And growing. And working together to help and heal. Daily finding the way,” are a hopeful reassurance that we can find the way together to help and heal our nation. And we have to be steadfast in our hope and diligent in our efforts.
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Thank you for these words, Ramona. To me, love and hope are inseparable, just as beliefs and actions are. We cannot afford to be paralyzed by grief and horror for long; the numbing effect has made it hard for me to write anything, especially something hopeful, yet I hang to that lifeline, knowing that possibility for overcoming exists for us all. Steadfast in hope and diligent in our efforts … indeed. Every day, in all that we do.