As I come to the end of my last semester of college before I go in to student teaching, I have been faced with a lot of transitions and the grief that inevitably goes along with these life changes. One way that I deal with things is through writing poems. Tonight, I took a break from all my crazy school work and wrote a poem titled The Holiness of Children. It was inspired by 15 very special 3-year-olds who I work with at the ASU Child Development Center. They have blessed my life so much and taught me things I never expected to learn from people with only 3 years of life experience (maybe that’s why they are so insightful – because their perspective is fresh). I will not be able to work at the CDC next semester because of my student teaching (that doesn’t mean I’m not going to visit them!!!). I guess what this poem is saying is that I think a person has to be either very close to the beginning or very close to the end of their life to remember what it is that life is really all about – it is somewhere in the middle that we lose our sense of direction.
Children – you are made from the stuff God breathes.
You carry magic in your pockets
And life inside your chests.
Your laughter is full of enough hope
To revitalize the dead
And bring solace to the broken.
When you stretch out your tiny fingertips
For your hands to be held,
There are galaxies in the lines of your palms –
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that isn’t true,
Because I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen the stardust you shed as you walk
And the way you never lose
The sparkle of newness
In your voice.
You see goodness and potential
In all things
There is no reason for you to think any different.
And let me tell you –
You are magic.
You can turn a cardboard box into a jungle tree house,
A blanket into a superhero cape
Or a regal robe,
Driftwood into a pirate ship,
Countertops into mountains,
Closets into giant caves
Or space shuttles
Or secret passageways,
Branches into Knights’ swords,
Couch cushions into cathedrals.
In your hands,
Shattered glass becomes a sandcastle
And shattered hearts become held.
You may not understand fully the concept of pain,
But you’ve discovered the way to heal it.
There is nothing impossible to you
In this bright, new world.
The universe is big and open and infinite
Because you imagine it to be
And your eyes are big and open and infinite
Because you never close them to truth.
But all us grown-ups…our hearts have been hardened –
Calloused and crusted over
Like old wounds cut deep
By skepticism and mistrust.
We would be hard pressed to realize
That all your secrets lie in simplicity.
If there is one thing I want you to hear me say,
It is this –
Do not grow up.
Whatever you do –
Don’t grow up.
I do not mean to tell you not to grow at all.
In fact – make sure you do.
Grow tall and strong so that you may see and do.
Grow deep roots so that you will remember where you came from.
Grow in love so that you learn how to treat people.
Grow firm in your beliefs without discounting others.
Grow in knowledge by never giving up your desire to learn.
Grow in grace that you may understand peace.
Just do not grow up.
You may not know this,
But you are healers.
You are teachers.
We look into your expectant eyes,
Full of promise
And hungering to know more,
And we are reminded what God is like.
You already know everything –
That the world is made of cotton candy
And melts in the rain
And that the sky is blue
Because a bunch of old people got very bored one day
And painted it;
That fairies live in tree trunks
And clouds are actually giant scoops of mashed potatoes
And that no one should be afraid to die
Because then you get to sit around
And eat clouds all day.
You try and show us the things you know, begging
“Slow down –
Come crawl on the ground
Look at the hills these ants have made,
I bet that took forever – they’re so small!
Look how the sun sparkles on that pond –
It looks like diamonds…
I wonder if there’s treasure down there?
We ought to take you up on it –
Go buy snorkeling masks and flippers
And dive in.
We won’t though,
Because we think we know
That there isn’t really any treasure buried down there,
But maybe we aren’t looking
For the same kind you are.
Somewhere in between
Dinosaur oatmeal and black coffee,
Between summer vacation and the fiscal year,
Between our work and school
And money and worries
And all the silliness
Of the very serious business
Of growing up,
We forgot how to be holy.
So open up your hands, children –
They are full of grace and hope.
Let the wind bless them with its consecrated breath,
Let it serenade you and tell you stories,
Inhale its secrets and sing its songs
To everyone who has forgotten
How to hear for themselves.
Hold your hands up to the sky, children –
Until the galaxies in space
Match the ones etched in your palms.
Keep your eyes open and full of wonder
And always wear that smile
Fanned out wide like butterfly wings on your lips.
And when someone tells you your world is make-believe,
You swear to them it’s real
And that they just can’t see it
Because they forgot.
And when you ask them why people have let
All these bad things happen to the world,
They will answer you by saying,
“You’re too young – you wouldn’t understand,”
But what they really mean to say is,
“Because we forgot.”