August 22, 2013

Prayers for a new school year

We went to a park on Monday, Zoe, my father, and I. A beautiful park here in Charleston. It used to be a plantation, and now it's a celebration of the past. Memorials to slaves and Native Americans who no longer walk the earth, ruins of old homes and battered fences.  Laden with remnants of a lost world, the park is encapsulated by lush sub-tropical forests and green, flowering fields.

We were caught in a sudden squall, typical of this summer's bizarre weather, and we were soaked to the skin. My father threw in the towel early, heading home to dryer pastures. But Zoe and I saw the blue skies in the distance, so we decided to stay, squishy shoes and all.

As we walked a narrow, wooded path, our view of the sky slimmed down until it was a mere sliver above us. It was through the tree leaves that we saw the sun break through the clouds, beaming on the earth below.

Seemingly out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, Zoe turned to me. "Mommy, I believe in God."

Not sure what to say, never sure of my own beliefs, I smiled. "I think that's a great thing, Zoe. A very great thing."

****

I thought of that moment on Tuesday, when reports came in of another shooter in another elementary school, shadows of last year's Sandy Hook massacre. A knot grew, deep in my stomach. Would the faces of children slain soon fill the internet in dark days to come?

I remembered Zoe's face, brilliantly lit by a sunbeam. "Mommy, I believe in God."

Soon the report from the school in Georgia told a different story. This time, the shooter was stopped in his very tracks. This time, a woman with an unearthly calm was able to talk to the shooter, to calm him down, to disarm him both literally and figuratively. 

"Mommy, I believe in God."

****

No one was hurt in the Georgia school shooting. Thank God.

****

Zoe started kindergarten yesterday, headed into a crowded school building to face a brave new world away from Charles and me. We left her there, in the care of teachers she'll grow to love, but strangers still. We left her with people on whom I now rely to do everything in their power to save her should the need arise.

So let's all take a second to say a few prayers - glorified wishes, really, depending on what you happen to believe. Prayers can be sent to any god you like, or just out into the stars should you not believe at all. 

****

I hope that Tuesday's shooting, with its comparatively happy ending, is the only school violence this year.

I hope every parent who sends a child to school in the morning gets to tuck a child in at night.

I hope no beds are suddenly empty this year, no parents arms left to hold nothing but a broken heart.

I hope our children learn a love of reading, of math, of science and history, all within a loving environment. 

I hope we care less about what test scores say, and more about what our children say. I hope we listen to their stories from the classroom, from recess, and I hope we can learn from our children.

I hope our children make friends, fall in love (age-appropriately, of course), and find the time to be silly.

I hope our refrigerators practically fall down beneath the weight of beautiful drawings and funny pictures.

Above all, I hope our children are safe. 

Zoe and me
First day of kindergarten
August 21, 2013

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