The other day I read about racism, war, famine, drought, and depression and that was just the front page of the paper.
Earlier in the year, I had the chance to tour the Loyola Early Learning Center in Baltimore. Walking around the school I noticed student artwork, colorful learning tools, toys and areas to play. The student learning spilled over into the hallways in the best of ways – answers yelled with excitement, students accompanied by warm and caring teachers navigating their way to meet friends.
My mom taught children this age. I vividly remember visiting her classrooms. Thoroughly and thoughtfully decorated and intentionally designed with the student in mind – the space welcomed and encouraged exploration and learning. Being that a hallmark of early childhood education is the importance of play, she always made sure students had opportunities for joy while they learned their foundational skills. These games and activities were based in a pedagogy, but the kids didn’t know any of that – all they did was be themselves, silly, energetic and full of excitement. Each child was known, valued and included. If there was ever a time this wasn’t the case, she would go out of her way to make sure to invite them back in to reunite with their friends.
The last stop of our tour was the playground. Tucked away in a city alley, was yet another slice of heaven, an oasis, a respite – a place where shouts of joy didn’t need to be hushed, a place where kids played tag, climbed, jumped and learned. Accompanying them were their teachers and parent & guardian volunteers. There were a lot of smiles as we all witnessed our future, hanging out with their friends.
Reflecting on this time, I found myself seeing the news through a different lens. It’s one thing for me to read about what is happening and think about how I’m affected by racism, war, famine, drought, and depression and decide whether to pay attention to these issues or block them out, but what about the kids? They don’t get a choice to contribute or opt out. All they’re doing is trying their best to pay attention, follow directions and be kind to their friends.
I think this is a great way to approach world affairs, whether it’s a political power struggle or policy decision – anything that impacts our societal structure. I might be able to stomach these things or explain away why they can be justified, but I’m an adult and my time on this earth is much less than our youth. They have to live with these choices for much longer. They should be the ones who influence and inform my way of proceeding. This realization has certainly challenged me to examine my own behaviors. I can make excuses and justify why I might want to hang on to my time, money or energy and turn my back on our youth by not addressing some of our most threatening issues. I can tell myself a million reasons to justify focusing on just me. One thing I can’t do is explain some of these selfish decisions to our youth.
So I won’t.
The only choice is to do my part to ensure a brighter future for our kids. There is so much more in store for them and much of their story is yet to be written. In a world where racism, war, famine, drought, and depression dominate our front pages, it’s important to remember the classrooms full of learners, adventurers, and explorers, playing with blocks, shouting out answers.
There was a moment on the playground when I found myself thinking about the challenges and evil in our world that the news tells us about, seemingly all the time, painting a world doomed for destruction. My pessimism was then interrupted by a joyful yell – a student recognizing one of their friends. I then thought to myself,
Someone forgot to tell the kids.