by Jane Tawel
January 14, 2018
I teach against the decay of decency and uninspiring language of the times. I do not want a generation of children to aspire to be those people, whatever their important job titles. Yesterday–teaching using the eloquent, inspirational, brilliant, literate and very Christian speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. The Speech on the Mall, “I Have a Dream” –and my students go wild with the amazing truth of it — not just then but, oh sorrow — now too, here too. And they gather hope in little parcels, and I try to gather the little wrappings around their gifts of hope to keep in my own heart. I wish I could tell them that our current nation’s problems are all “just a dream”, but instead I tell them, “On behalf of us adults, I am so sorry. I am so sorry. Please find a way, to forgive us and to change the world. Please.” And so they write about their dreams of no more violence, and a world with clean water and air, and a time when no one sleeps on the streets but everyone sleeps in a bed, and a world where everyone knows God and loves Him. And I tell them — Yes, this is Christ’s Kingdom. He is here ready to serve and be served. Enter today. Enter forever. Change the world–on earth as in Christ’s Heaven. And just as in the words of the first Church’s evangelists, — who did not believe you could change definitions of what it means to be some one so that you could defend your sins –because my children and students have vision of what it means to follow Goodness and Truth, a vision that the world could be changed, this “old one can still dream dreams”(Acts 2:17). “I Have a Dream” because, like great men such as both the Martin Luthers of old, the children don’t know better yet, than to risk dreaming big dreams. There is hope.
If I have taught my students that Emily Dickinson wrote that “Hope is the thing with feathers”, then my students have taught me that hope is found in the people with the least amount of armor, in those with a lack of defense, with their little stones held ready against the Goliaths of ignorance, fear, hate, and injustice. Hope is found in laughter at self and tears for others. Hope is found in the innocence that must moor up big dreams. Hope can be found in all of us who believe we were wrong, are wrong, will be wrong again, but that there is a Great Teacher who created us to know that He is all Right, alright, and all righteous. Hope is indeed the “little bird that sings the song and never stops at all” and can be heard even in “the chillest land and on the strangest sea”. But I am not so sure as a teacher that I agree with the artist. Hope does ask something of me. My students have taught me in fact that it asks much of me. Hope requires that I believe.
I teach against the decay of belief in the world. There is a God who holds the whole world’s hopes in His Righteous Right Hand. I teach against the uninspiring lies of our time. There is a God who is true and Who sent us His only begotten Truth, Light and Way. I teach against the hopelessness that threatens to swamp us. Indeed, I teach against my own heart’s tendency to be swamped by fear and despair. Hope is indeed the thing with feathers. Like the butterfly effect of small beating wings in the hearts of the children, Hope will rise above the swamp of despair. Hope is the gift the children still have to give me. I just need to keep my hands and heart open to receive. I just need to believe that all of us who believe are stronger than those who would pluck off the wings of our hope.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. realized that darkness cannot defeat darkness, only light can do that; and hate cannot defeat hate; only love can do that. Despair can and will defeat us if we believe that hope is only strong enough for one’s own selfish dreams. The children believe that hope is only strong when it flies out of our own hands to be caught by the hands of others. Oh, yes, sometimes those hopes are crushed by the hard calloused grip of fear or greed, or beneath the tragic heels of prejudice or lust. But the children still don’t know any better than to trust that there is a God who knows even the very moment that a sparrow-ed dream falls; a God who cares about every winged hope; a God Who resurrected all the dead and dying hopes of the world when He resurrected The Hope of the World, Jesus. The children let their hope fly freely, born on the wings of their dreams for a world that can be better — should be better — oh, Must be better! May hope grow wings in our hearts; and may we open our hearts and hands to release those hopes into a world sorely in need of resurrected butterflies.