Commentary

Prayers for our children for the New Year

stockvault-praying-hands158402In a world rife with war, religious, racial, gender, sectarian, and political strife, when so many children lack safety, enough food, shelter, health care, and education and suffer unthinkable losses of parents to disease, violence, and war, I hope this New Year will bring adults closer to our common sense and moral responsibility for children’s well being.

If the child is well all of us are well. So I offer two prayers for the New Year.

O God of the children of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea,
Of Nigeria and Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan,
Of Iraq and Iran and Israel,
Of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala,
Of Darfur, Detroit, and Chicago,
Of Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York City
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of Black and Brown and White and Albino children and those all mixed together,
Of children who are rich and poor and in between,
Of children who speak English and Russian and Hmong and Spanish
and languages our ears cannot discern,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of the child prodigy and the child prostitute,
Of the child of rapture and the child of rape,
Of runaway or thrown away children who struggle every day
without parent or place or friend or future,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of children who can walk and talk and hear and see
and sing and dance and jump and play
and of children who wish they could but can’t,
Of children who are loved and unloved, wanted and unwanted,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of beggar, beaten, abused, neglected, homeless,
and AIDS-, Ebola-, drug-, violence-, and hunger-ravaged children,
Of children who are emotionally and physically and mentally fragile,
and of children who rebel and ridicule, torment and taunt,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of children of destiny and of despair, of war and of peace,
Of disfigured, diseased, and dying children,
Of children without hope and of children with hope to spare and to share,
Help us to love and respect and act to protect them all.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the great president of Morehouse College, who shaped so many of my generation including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “I am disturbed, I am uneasy about men because we have no guarantee that when we train a man’s mind, we will train his heart; no guarantee that when we increase a man’s knowledge, we will increase his goodness. There is no necessary correlation between knowledge and goodness.” So I share this prayer for 21st century children of privilege.

God, help us not to raise a new generation of children
with high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients;
with sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts;
with highly developed computer skills but poorly developed consciences;
with a gigantic commitment to the big “I” but little sense of responsibility to the bigger “we”;
with mounds of disconnected information without a moral context to determine its worth;
with more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation for the magic of life that cannot be quantified or computerized;
and with more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.
God, help us to raise children who care.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

January 14, 2015
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