One of my “go-to-for-words of wisdom” writers is Robert Fulgham. He wrote a wonderful little book of humorous stories titled, All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten. It begins with Fulgham outlining the timeless things he learned in kindergarten that still apply in adulthood. They are:
*Share everything. *Play fair. *Don’t hit people. *Put things back where you found them. *Clean up your own mess. *Don’t take things that aren’t yours. *Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. *Wash your hands before you eat. *Flush. *Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. *Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. *Take a nap every afternoon. *When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together….
Like Robert Fulgham, I learned all these things, too, when I attended kindergarten in 1974. But chief among the things I remember from kindergarten are two things: The Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and Mrs. Coleman is kind.
Mrs. Coleman, my kindergarten teacher, was a beautiful black woman with hair styled like Jackie Kennedy’s, who smelled like soap. She was kind to me-a perpetually awkward and confused child. She encouraged my artistic endeavors, even entering a mixed media piece I did titled, “Snooferdoordle”, into an art show; taught us that the USA and our allies were good and the USSR was bad with black (for the US) and red (for the USSR) construction paper; and welcomed us to the classroom and sent us away at the end of every day with a happy wave and smile. I took to lingering at the end of the line to leave, because I wanted to hug her and give her a kiss on the cheek to thank her every day. She made me happy and safe and gave me a love of school.
Then, one day, she told me I couldn’t hug her anymore. When I asked why, she just gave a vague answer about how some people didn’t like it, and it was for the best. I was back to feeling awkward and confused, and now, a little heartbroken. Why did it matter to anyone that I wanted to thank my teacher this way? Looking back with eyes formed by experience and wisdom shaped by the Sandusky revelations, #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter and life in general, I can see that some adult, somewhere, clearly felt that my hug and kiss on the cheek seemed out-of-place, and maybe even, inappropriate. But I can’t help but think that when adults impose adult expectations on children, we break them.
Now, in the name of being adults, we have made public education a political football, arguing over property taxes, school breakfast and lunch programs, defunding public schools in favor of charter and private schools, and the necessity of gym, art, music and guidance counseling. We act like facing gunmen, eliminating tax breaks for teachers who buy their own supplies, bearing the debt from a college education, and wearing a mask against a virus that has killed tens of thousands of people is just the price of being a teacher, today. I know without a doubt that Mrs. Coleman would have done all this and still smiled and waved us home each day.
We have made too many adult decisions without remembering one basic rule, The Golden Rule, which I learned in Sunday School while I was in kindergarten, which Jesus said: Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. All adult decisions could be made responsibly and fearlessly, if we would only do this: follow the most basic of all Jesus’ rules.
As our teachers, administrators and children enter this academic year, pray for them and put your prayers into action. And most of all, remember The Golden Rule and wave and smile at everyone.
Your sister in Christ,
Pastor Liz P.