My daughter, 002*, occasionally writes about her feelings and hopes for the world. She asks me to share them here, and I like to accommodate her wishes. I think it is important to provide a space where children are heard. This is her ministry.
"Men, women, children, blacks, whites, etc. all down to a single atom are all created equal and no one should deny that. We may all look different, we may sound different. But we can think, feel, love, and care (well, the atom's a little more different but that's OK) So, why can't we turn the wrongs into rights in the world? Even if we can't answer that question, we are all created equal no matter what."
She and I have long conversations about equality. She feels deeply about others' pain and their need to be loved. 002 worries about the equality of LGBTQ people and people living in impoverished and war-torn nations. She is concerned about religious and racial minorities and immigrants. She worries about animal rights and children's rights and women's rights and the rights of indigenous people. She turns down ice cream and cookies and cakes and pizza just to make sure she causes no more pain in the world than a human body must cause. When she does chores around the house, or receives birthday money, she tucks the coins and bills away in the UNICEF box and when the UNICEF letters come asking for more money, she sits down at the table in a business-like fashion and reads through the material so that she can see how that money is spent and what more needs to be done.
I worry about that sometimes. As a child, my father said I had an acute sense of injustice. I suppose I must have shared that with her. We both live in a state of near constant outrage at abuses in the world. But her energy and her innocence in the face of injustice revive me when I grow tired and cynical. There is something about a child reminding you how few pennies it takes to make a difference to just one person that revives hope and determination. Will I refuse to help one child because I cannot help all children? Will I refuse to be a neighbor because I can't be a savior? So the dollar is donated, and despair is defeated for another day.
In the warm months, she shovels dog poop in the yard (I pay her "ten cents a turd") and this money can be put in the orange box for UNICEF. "7 cents provides safe drinking water for 50 kids for a day." A shovelful of shit is all it takes for her to see herself helping 50 other children and then some. And so she keeps on shoveling.
God, it feels like there is an awful lot of shit to shovel. I find myself despairing until I look into her earnest little face and read the speeches she writes for me about justice and equality and how much love she has for the world. So I pick up my own shovel and work beside her. I teach her all I can about the history of human rights, peace, and justice work. I teach her, my little feminist vegan Quaker, about animal rights and labor unions, about slavery and factory farms, about picket lines and political prisoners, about marches, and speeches, and lives lived in obedience to the Light. And she takes it all in and keeps on asking for more. She keeps asking questions. In the midst of it, sometimes I feel weary and angry and low. "Why can't we turn all the wrongs into rights in the world?" she asks me. Why? As a mother, I rage against the world she must inherit.
But she doesn't waver. She doesn't quit.
"So, why can't we turn all the wrongs into rights?" You see her question in italics on this page, but I see it on a piece of lined notebook paper with little jagged edges. I see the misspelled words (I need to work on that kid's spelling). I see the large letters in pencil in her own childish handwriting. I see her serious face peering into mine asking me (again) to please share this with those who read my blog. I feel the weight of her question as a sorrow I fear I can't carry. I feel it as fear for her future. "Why can't we turn all the wrongs into rights?"
I don't know. I can never tell her. But she is not deterred from action. "Even if we can't answer that question, we are all created equal no matter what." No matter what. So to that principle, I'll remain true for her sake and the two of us can reach for our shovels and get back to work.
*My children have actual people names which I do not disclose on the internet. We have always, since their births, jokingly referred to them as Offspring 001, 002, and 003.