Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Day through a Child's Eyes

I love the innocence of a child.  When you spend time with children, you are often hit with at least one question that knocks you for a loop.  Something that reveals their pure view of the world that makes you smile when it see it through their eyes.

When I recognize those moments from my children I desperately try to hold on to them. Children grow so fast and at some point, they lose that innocence and hope and begin to see the world a little more clearly, with more experience.

One of those moments that stands out was Martin Luther King Day in 2008.  My wonderful six-year old daughter loved school.  Everyday she couldn’t wait to go to class and learn something new.  January rolled around and MLK day.  

My daughter’s kindergarten classroom was racially diverse.  Fewer than half the students looked like her.  With the pure beauty of children, if they noticed the difference in each other’s appearance, they didn’t seem to think much of it.  She had no labels for the kids who looked different than her.  When telling me about a classmate, she would just describe how they looked.  It never occurred to her that they were any different or that anyone would treat someone differently because of how they looked. 

Until MLK day.  

Martin Luther King Jr.
I knew they were learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Naturally, I assumed the school would introduce them to key phrases from Dr. King’s great speech and talk about his vision for our country. That the lesson would be used to inspire children to look at the goodness and character of each one of us and live together in peace & harmony.  However, if they did, that message was lost on my daughter, because they also shared the presence and history of racism with the class.  My sweet little girl came home crying.  “Why,” she sobbed,“would anyone treat someone else so ugly because of how they looked?”

Her little world was shattered.  She learned an ugly truth about adults, from adults.  We can be cruel to each other for no good reason.  I felt very saddened for her.  She was so young to already have some of that innocence and hopefulness wiped away.  For her eyes to be opened more to the reality of humanity.

Let us not focus on the sins of the past, but instead emphasize the words and dream of Dr. King.  Let us continue to bring that dream to fruition.  Let us allow our small children to love each other for who they are and not concern them with past racial divisions. 

Can you imagine the world if we truly looked at one another and see simply the content of our character?
Lisa Jones

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