Let love (and welcome, inclusion, knowledge, and action) be the first motion!
by Melinda Wenner Bradley, NYYM Children and Youth Field Secretary
In both my roles as a parent and educator, I’ve been part of many conversations since the election this fall about “how do I parent/work with children/model activism/take care of myself” in response to recent and ongoing events. In times of challenge, there is always more wisdom in the circle of people around us, whether in our families, meeting, or the wider world of Friends. During the time of greatest personal crisis in my life, when one of my children (then a toddler) had cancer, our family, Friends school colleagues, monthly meeting — and even yearly meeting — communities gathered around and journeyed with us. That was, in fact, what the pediatrician said to me when we first spoke after James’ diagnosis: “You are beginning a journey.”
Accompaniment on a journey can make an extraordinary difference, whether the journey is physical, temporal or spiritual. The times we’re living in certainly feel for some of us like a new path, and for others like a road walked too often. How can we provide accompaniment and spiritual nurture to children and young people in the days ahead? How can we support their interest in justice and participation in protest? How do we address worries and provide comfort? How do we recognize that of God in everyone — especially those who don’t hold the same views or values — and let love be the first motion?
1. Welcome: Among ourselves and to the stranger
Two of the best ways we can support our children are to take care of ourselves on this journey, and model for them both the giving and receiving of hospitality to others. Building connections and finding accompaniment is a powerful message to model for our children, who know how important friends are. In our yearly meeting, we’re hosting Quaker Parent Meetups for fellowship and worship together (in quarters and regions) and there are online communities for sharing information, like the “Families of NYYM” Facebook page. Watch for news in coming weeks about online Conversation Circles for parents, caregivers, and teachers interested in connection and discussion across the yearly meeting. Explore with children and youth how we make our circle wider, and welcome others, whether it’s a visitor to meeting on First Day or reaching out in friendship and service in our neighborhood or community.
2. Knowledge and Inclusion: Hand in hand
Providing children with stories and images of people who live/look/worship/love differently than them or their family is to nurture their compassion and experience of inclusion. How can we support young Friends if they are confronted with racism, Islamaphobia, misogyny, homophobia? Stories are a potent source for exploring the experiences of people different from us, as well as finding ourselves in the story. We’re growing the collection of books in our NYYM Resource Library which center the lives of people of color (Friends and others), and also including stories like “Muslim Child” by Rukhsana Khan and “Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann. Looking for a book to borrow for FDS or home? Interested in suggested titles or want to lift one up? Please be in touch!
Websites with excellent multicultural book collections and suggestions:
Early Childhood Anti-Bias Education
We Need Diverse Books
Colours of Us
Children's Books that Tackle Race and Ethnicity
Counter Islamophobia Through Stories of Muslim Kids As Heroes
Books to Help Kids Understand What It's Like to Be a Refugee
3. Activism with Children and Youth
Several opportunities for children to be involved in age-appropriate activism are happening at this time. There are possibilities for each of us, at all ages, to find our entry into witness and activism. How do we know where our Light leads us to be God’s hands and feet and voice? One of the gifts we can give children is the tool of discernment; a Friend talks about giving a concern or a leading “The Love test; time; over to a larger group.” A resource to learn more about these ideas and exploring discernment with kids is posted on the NYYM website, “When the Light it at Work in Us.”
Two Letter-Writing Campaigns for Kids:
Friends Journal's 4th annual Student Voices Project
The RavensPerch Literary Magazine’s “Children’s Letters to the President”
Participate in a project to take Quaker faith out into your community in meaningful ways--outside the meetinghouse walls. Quaker "Outside the Lines"
Books and Resources for Young Activists:
35 Picture Books for Young Activists
8 Empowering Middle Grade Novels for Kids Interested in Social Justice
Student Activism on Campus
19 Books to Help Children Find Hope and Strength in Stressful Times
Teaching Radical Hope and Resistance
Standing with Standing Rock: A Role Play on the Dakota Access Pipeline
The wider circle of Friends is on this journey together. A gathering of New England Friends in January initiated the development of resources to support Quaker witness for peace and justice; one of these is Supporting Young People After a Tragedy. It offers wisdom to take care of yourself, pay attention to where young people are (do not assume or project feelings about events), provide accurate information, move to action you can take, and make space for prayer and silence as well as support from those around you. Let us walk together, and let love be the first motion.
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