I only see a handful now and only for 1 hour each, but I think about children often, my few students and the millions now in high school, and then well beyond those Americans to the young archetypal faces recorded in snapshots of desperate streets, deserts and mountaintops, whose country by country suffering has so recently been in the news.
Yazidi children crying on a flight rescuing them from Mt. Sinjar; Honduran children at our border; Gazan children abed in chaotic hospitals; Israeli children terrified of rockets. This is an infinite list. In such infinities, tragedy is the normal experience of each day.
And now what faraway misery comes into our safe homes each day.
Why should the well-being of children everywhere not be the epicenter of our collective devotion and the point of convergence for our political will?
Pediatricians and aid workers, volunteers in soup kitchens and food banks, parents and pastors, anyone who sees children in distress, I must believe, also sees the men and women banked inside each child, a fire waiting to be fed.
I think of those children first as I have been trained by 36 years of experience, and that is why I think of my brethren, good teachers and administrators returning to school very soon.
Every child’s expression contains one innocent who can become a man or woman. Through a teacher’s eyes, they all wear their potential for bravery, intelligence and kindness as if those talents were physically imprinted in dazzling colors on their clothing and in their expressions.
The act of teaching infuses into teachers the capacity to psychologically leap from every child with whom they work to the hope inherent in every child they see. Each of those unnamed faces and voices carries the promise of the same virtue and intellectual ability those teachers have experienced with the children who have resided in their own classrooms and schools. Their personal understanding attaches itself to the children captured in war photos and glimpsed in two minute nightly news stories and makes them real.
Some qualities carry zero significance (or should) – color, ethnicity, religion, nationality, language. Only their youth matters. Only their deliverance is of importance. Only their humanity counts.
Teaching should not be a career that merely fills the refrigerator and pays the taxes. A classroom should be the one place where we can be certain that every person counts, where all the young faces shadow forth the goodness of what they might do if given the chance. Children, those children, all children are not abstractions. They are not expendable. They should not be sacrificed. They are our flesh — thousands of miles away, in the front row, in the town across the river, they are the measure of our principles.