By Catherine Hedge
Several years ago, a friend asked me to compose a philosophy statement. The challenge was, “If you could tell the World anything, what would you say?” Though I’m now retired and other situations have changed, I do believe I would say much the same thing. We need to believe in our children, our greatest chance for eternity.
An hour after midnight, four months ago, I stroked the sticky cheek of my newborn grandson. He cried, his chin quivering as the nurses attached his bracelets and inked his feet. His parents watched him, amazed. I heard his dad whisper, “He’s beautiful!” At that instant, I knew my grandson inherited a great gift…parents who believe he is wonderful…limitless.
One of my favorite people, the late Leonard Bishop, used to talk about the effects of that hope in self. He grew up in desperate inner-city poverty. He told my middle school students about growing up dyslexic and then becoming a best-selling author. He said, “ I knew that this one part of me didn’t work…the reading part…but somehow I knew the rest of me was brilliant.”
This I believe: the greatest treasure we can give our children is trust in their own potential. Our greatest responsibility is providing the resources, skills, and opportunities to develop their talents.
We have an incredible resource in the United States, but we squander it. Through ignorance, poverty, prejudice, and unequal expectations, we waste those we deem not worthy.
The Kansas Health Foundation, based on the Search Institute’s research, lists assets every person needs to thrive: Support from people who care; a sense of self; boundaries; and a commitment to learning. Children who do not have these assets are often our dropouts, criminals, and victims. They trust in fate, not their own choices. When given a risky proposition, they will answer, “No one cares if somethin’ happens to me.”
Every child is like a chunk of marble at first. Some are gently chipped and shaped, polished to a sheen. I see it the first day they walk into the classroom. A twelve-year-old bounces into the room and looks me straight in the eye, “Hi! I’m Howard. That’s a cool poster over there. I love Volcanoes!”
After him comes a girl with greasy bangs covering her eyes. I can feel her darting glance while she heads for the corner seat. The sculptors have been unkind to her. With a million tiny blows, or some chiseled attacks, life chips away at her until she cracks.
There are grand and important ways we can help our children…improving schools, healthcare, and raising the huge numbers of youth out of poverty. That change will come. Eventually.
But my grandson is here…now. And so is the girl with the broken spirit.
They can’t wait. No child should wait.
For them, I promise this:
I will turn to face a child who is talking to me, to see his or her eyes. Do they sparkle with excitement or tears? How do I know if I don’t look?
I will wait to walk beside…not run ahead and yell, “Catch up!”
I will ask instead of tell.
I will smile.
I will believe.
©2014 Catherine Hedge