Seasons, Holidays, and Children
Spring brings with it a sense of renewal and greater light. In the north, the snow (hopefully) has melted and grass has begun to turn green. Bushes and trees are budding and the crocus and daffodils have emerged from the earth reminding us that they were there all along...just waiting for the perfect moment to pop up and say hello. It is a time in which hopefulness becomes visible. Gardeners are putting their tools and hands into the newly softened earth. Others have found their way to the Marathon or trails to walk and hike. We shed our protective layers and delight in the feel of warm sun and gentler breezes.
Along with spring always comes Easter Sunday. We have seen the familiar foretelling events: black marks on foreheads on Ash Wednesday leading to palms in hands last weekend. We have also seen huge blow up plastic rabbits on lawns and aisles of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and peeps. There is the Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn. And as most holidays of this size, there is a sense of excitement in the air, as wardrobes change, pastels emerge and flowers bloom on hats.
Our society has been, primarily, a Christian one. But as we have become more diverse, in color, country of origin, and religion, we should consider the messages that our students are receiving even outside of our schools. Our Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Muslim, Native American, and Jewish children have different religious and cultural traditions. But, the commercial side of the Christian holidays, with Santa and the Easter Bunny, are designed to have all children want to join in.
Nonetheless, the nation is celebrating a Christian holiday today. Religions teach morals and values and hand down powerful stories that remain with those who practice for a lifetime. We work so very hard in schools to include all of our students - to develop an environment in which all families are accepted and celebrated. Do we refer to Easter Break or the Spring Break? The Christmas Break or the Winter Break? The Christmas Concert or the Winter Concert? Many have made a shift to inclusiveness with consciousness and purpose. Some have met with strong community opposition and others with supportive agreement.
As we develop school environments that accept and protect all children from bullying, marginalization, exclusion, or simply being ignored, should we be watching how their larger world is behaving? There are majorities and there are minorities and that will always exist. Perhaps just a sensitization to the fact that one child's holiday is seen all over the place and schools are closed for it while another child needs to be absent from school to celebrate.
This is not a suggestion to change our faith or traditions or calendars, rather it is about empathy, remembering that families and children will not all be affected in the same way nor will they respond the same. But when the children return to school, some children will have colored Easter eggs and eaten chocolate and others not. And it won't be just about religious and cultural differences, because poverty, too, separates children on these holidays. It's all OK if the ones who were not part of the holiday don't receive messages that there is something wrong with them. And if there is joy enough for all to share.
It is spring. As those bulbs that were dormant all winter push their faces toward the sun, let us consider what is lying dormant in the children and let's be attentive to their faces. Are they quietly interpreting the actions and advertisements that surround them as divisive? Or are they absorbing feelings that are open and inclusive as we are working to have happen in our schools? The only way to truly know is to watch, and listen and ask. If we pay attention to their experience, each one of them, perhaps that will give each child a springtime lift toward the light.