This Labor Day Weekend we honored the workers who have made America all that it is—especially all those who work with and for children. The teachers and school administrators who are beginning a new school year right now are always on the front lines advocating for and alongside our children, sometimes under very difficult circumstances.
As they return to their classrooms they are not alone. Parents and grandparents and all those who care for children and strive to be good role models for them are child advocates. Doctors, social workers, and others who work with and serve children are child advocates. Librarians and coaches are child advocates.
They are all joined by the thousands of people, with or without children of their own, who spend their time and talent fighting for just policies for children and families and those who are vulnerable. “A Child Advocate’s Beatitudes,” inspired by Clarence Jordan’s Sermon on the Mount, is a prayer for all.
Blessed are the poor in spirit—who do not measure themselves by money or worldly power but who ask God for what they need and are not mired in pride—for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who mourn—who are concerned about the needs of children and the poor and those in need—for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek—who do not seek only their own good but their neighbors’ too—for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness—who do not work for the praise of others or earthly gain or fame and share gladly their talents, energy and money—for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—who know they are sinners and are dependent on God’s and others’ forgiveness every minute of every day—for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart—who are not hypocrites but who struggle to live what they preach—for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—who do not prepare for war while talking about peace, who do not kill others in order to stop killing, who do not love just those who love them but reach out to make their enemies friends—for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—who do not run or waver in the face of criticism, threats, or death—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who speak kindly and not meanly of others – who do not tear down others but build them up for the kingdom’s work and children’s well-being—for they shall receive their reward.
Blessed are the just—who do not adhere to the letter of the law and regulations for some but ignore them for others—for they will hear God’s well done.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the great president of Morehouse College who shaped so many of my generation, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “I am disturbed, I am uneasy about men because we have no guarantee that when we train a man’s mind, we will train his heart; no guarantee that when we increase a man’s knowledge, we will increase his goodness. There is no necessary correlation between knowledge and goodness.”
I share one more prayer for all those who will work with and for children this year that all children will be taught what really matters.
“God, help us not to raise a new generation of children
with high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients;
with sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts;
with highly developed computer skills but poorly developed consciences;
with a gigantic commitment to the big I but little sense of responsibility to the bigger we;
with mounds of disconnected information without a moral context to determine its worth;
with more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation
for the magic of life that cannot be quantified or computerized;
and with more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe
for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.
God, help us to raise children who care.”
Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund.