I write this on Juneteenth in the middle of Pride month. And I see the mess adults are handing the next generations; homophobia, racism, people hurting people. But when I hear the brilliance in children, hope explodes.
I read to my granddaughters. Their naturally occurring sweetness radiates. First, the book, “Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights:” each page colorful pictures, yellow skin, black skin, and white. Golden hair, fiery red hair, and gray. People in streets march, every page glowing with signs for each alphabet letter. From Assemble, take Action, create Allies to be Zealous. Eight-year-old Lawson reads, “shake a hand, lend a hand, have hope, be hope.” Five-year-old Brooke wonders, “why is this brown face frowning? Why does that one with short hair like a man wear a dress like a woman?” At the end Lawson asks, “Speaking of protests, how did that policeman get to be a policeman if he kills people?”
Kids raise good questions.
Then we choose, “The Voice that Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History,” by local author Elisa Boxer, a story of women campaigning for the right to vote. I read some words of dissenters, “Women with a voice in politics? Nonsense.” Brooke interrupts, “That’s stupid. Women are people. You’re a woman: you’re a person.” One man’s ballot breaks a tie and grants women the vote. Lawson says, “Phew, he did the right thing.”
Kids get it.
Our third book, “Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag,” tells of sparkly, glittery Gilbert who loves color, whose father destroys his drawings, who gets drafted, who refuses to shoot a gun, who is discharged to San Francisco where he meets Harvey Milk. They sew colorful fabric and make the first rainbow flag. Brooke imagines, “I want to live in a city with sparkles and glitter. I love all the colors of the rainbow.”
May she sustain that dream.
After reading, we play a Winnie the Pooh movie. I note, “Eeyore seems sad.” Lawson explains, “He has no place to live. If you don’t have a home, it’s hard to be happy.”
I have nothing to add.
Next we watch their mom’s brother on Instagram. Glittery, sparkly Uncle Zac posts glittery, sparkly episodes. The girls have met his boyfriend. Lawson says, “One of my friends said that some people think it’s not OK for people of the same gender to marry each other. But I told them, ‘That was the olden days.’”
Will they stay that open? Will they always know that, of course, all people are people? Will they make sure their city has people of all colors of the rainbow? Will they heal this mess they inherit so that today becomes one of the olden days when people had to fight for fairness and freedom?
Later they teach me a song their ten-year-old pal Charlie wrote:
“Someone once told me
2020 would be the worst of all
First there were the fires
Then corona virus
What is happening in the world?”
We chant this rhyme as we bike around the neighbored, and sing it to my brother Mark when we see him in his van. He smiles, “I know secrets about the world. Do you want to me to tell you?”
Their eyes pop, “Please.”
He whispers, “The world is going to be fine. YOU are going to be fine.”
I’ll believe Mark if the children’s natural sweetness, wonder and genius grow with them, if they stay wide-eyed and open-hearted. Juneteenth or any day, Pride or any month, I hope we can trust hope.
Such a wonderful story, as usual. So sweet and hopeful. Can’t wait to read the book.
Hi Susan, once again a very relatable piece for my reading pleasure and edification! Having spent part of my 39 years in education teaching ( and Learning) in Kindergarten I found there is much to learn from five year olds. Their questions, their answers, their logic and thought process are all amazing, not to mention Refreshing! Instead of over thinking they simplify and hit the point.
Thanks again Susan. Your work leaves me thinking and happy…..always looking forward to the next one.