Friday, June 29, 2018

Reading for Hope and Justice

I wasn't planning on doing too many of these over the summer months. But it's been a very discouraging last few weeks, no? Stories and images of children separated from their parents after the trauma of the homes they left behind is almost too much too bear. And yet, people are somehow bearing it in their hearts and bodies every day - even here in Washington there are over 200 adults in the immigration detention center whose children are being kept elsewhere.

How on earth can we explain this crisis to our own children? Should we? As I often do, I turn to literature to help me have these conversations. I turned to a resource I've looked to for awhile and I discovered a cool new resource for parenting for justice.

Here Wee Read is an old favorite. Charnaie, the creator of this resource has several virtual stores through Amazon, including one on immigration. I found it to be a helpful bibliography of books at a variety of levels from preschool to young adult. I was unfamiliar with many, but can personally recommend Inside Out and Back Again, a story told in verse from the perspective of a Vietnamese refugee girl in the south. And The Sun is Also A Star, which is a YA novel about two teenagers: Korean American boy and a Jamaican girl on the eve of her deportation. It's a real tear-jerker/page-turner (Kindle-tapper?) love story, which I just found out is going to be made into a movie starring the star of Blackish and Grownish and a guy I didn't recognize from Riverdale. I'll be first in line.

Barefoot Mommy is my new discovery. A seminary educated social justice advocate who as a parent is putting her energy into how to raise socially conscious kids. She herself is parent to a five-year-old and a teen. This list of books has some overlap with the Here Wee Read list, but also includes discussion questions, audio of Story Corps interviews with immigrants and video of a young woman talking about being separated from her father by ICE. From there she links to other resources as well, including tools (like this one) for writing letters to legislators with kids.

Finally, our local libraries also have lists of books related to immigration. I've already put a bunch of them on hold. Don't be surprised if some of them make it into children's time over the summer.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Blessing the Transitions

For those of us who have children in school, the end of school is a significant transition, whether it's into a new grade, a new school or graduating and going off to college. We mark these transitions with chalk board "end of x grade" photos on Instagram (or is that just in my feed - can't say I'm that organized myself). In our congregation we have a tradition of marking the transition out of high school with a quilt and an invitation to grads to bring some show-and-tell mementos of their life as students. But how, for all our children, do we honor and bless the work and accomplishments, the joy and anticipation, and mark these transitions as significant life moments that are held in the hands of God?

Traci Smith, whose work I've recommended before, makes the suggestion to present to a graduate the gift of new shoes. Along with the new shoes, a picture of or the actual shoes they wore as they began school and a blessing. Something like this: "We remember the feet that wore these little shoes and we are so proud of all the places your feet have take you and taken us together - the classrooms, and sports fields and stages and trails. We have seen your feet, and every part of you, grow so much! May God bless your feet. As you as you continue to grow in knowledge and in spirit, may God walk with you wherever your future takes you."

Maybe the gift is shoes decorated by a family member or maybe there are additional mementos and gifts inside the new shoes, or a special letter. Maybe it's just a gift certificate to pick shoes that the graduate will like. I love this idea for a transition or graduation. We usually think of giving new items of clothing at the beginning of a school year, but this really honors the path that has been trod. And not to get all "Footprints," but Jesus has been walking with our children every step of the way.

This end-of-school time is a time for a benediction, a blessing to send us into something new - even if the something new is just summer break. So I offer you this benediction and a blessing on the transition:

May your feet come alive
in the unknown geography that waits for them.
May you step from this threshold into an adventure
in which the One who created you,
in whose image you are beautifully formed,
calls you into love,
compels you toward joy
and promises to be always present when your feet stumble.