Some of my neighbors have recently added signs in their lawns–ones that join the “Hate Has No Home Here” and “Black Lives Matter” signs already in place. “Drive like your kids live here,” the signs say. And they work: I slow down when I pass them, remembering that, actually, my kids DO live here, and so do other ones, too.
It seems to me that we may want to add signs like this all over America, all across our city. “Drive like your kids live here.” “Vote like your kids depend on government-subsidized health care.” “Ban assault weapons like your kids might be the ones at risk in the next school shooting.”
I was thinking about that last one two weeks ago, when I took part in an interfaith vigil at the NRA, commemorating the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. The speakers that day were all great, but it was the music that got me. In between each speaker, we sang the chorus of a song: “We want our children back. We want our children back. There are too many gone too soon.” None of us gathered that day had lost children to gun violence, and I don’t mean to suggest we could understand the pain of that experience…but all of us felt the power of the song, felt that in some deeper way, they were our children who had been lost.
One speaker reminded us that most children lost to gun violence are not lost in school shootings or because of unlocked firearms in homes, but because of violence that occurs every day in neighborhoods across America. Often, children of color, these kids’ faces don’t capture media attention in the same way. But they are–they must be–our children too. We want our children back.
Growing up, Christmas in my Unitarian Universalist congregation always included a poem by the religious educator Sophia Lyon Fahs. The reading reminds the listener that although the holiday celebrates the birth of one particular child, children are born every day: “No angels herald their beginnings. No prophets predict their future courses. No wise men see a star to show where to find the babe that will save humankind. Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.
Because of that reading and the place it held in my childhood traditions, Christmas for me has always been a time to think of children everywhere. To wonder whether we are building a world that welcomes all children, that cares for them, that protects them. To wonder whether we have yet learned that “our children” doesn’t mean just the ones we raise, but rather has something to say about the universal human family.
In our WES community, people celebrate the winter holidays in many ways–some setting up Christmas decorations galore, others lighting Hannukah candles, others turning down the electric lights and watching the yule log burn. Whatever this time of year means for you, I hope it may include a reflection on the children among us in the wide world, and a renewed commitment to drive like “your” kids live here.
Amanda Poppei, Senior Leader