As if the ordinary transition back-to-school after summer were not hectic enough, this year parents are confronting a return to school in the shadow of the Delta variant of the deadly COVID-19 virus, a variant that has increased numbers of infections among children.
For many American parents, our kids aren’t even eligible yet for COVID vaccines (the youngest currently eligible are 12), and some of us are confronting sending kids to schools that are not requiring masks or distancing.
Rightly, this prospect feels alternately terrifying and impossible. And at the same time, the rhythms of childhood are pulsing as normal: did we get school supplies? Have you gotten your teacher assignment? Am I ever going to be able to complete an interruption-free workday again? Am I eternally consigned to meal, cleanup, and laundry duty until the end of time?
In this article I do not have answers or public health expert-level advice. For that I would suggest turning to reliable news sources and also consulting with your local pediatrician. I’d also recommend that all eligible people get vaccinated, and that parents protect their own children and others by wearing masks and staying home from school when ill.
What I do want to offer today, though, is a prayer — for all of us, parents, caregivers, students, teachers, administrators, supporters alike, listed in the form of the ABCs. May God go before us even into this uncertainty, fear, and frustration.
Dear God, Today I pray for all of us as a new school year begins:
A is for aptitude. May each student recognize their own ability and aptitude to learn and grow, and embrace an environment dedicated to learning.
B is for boxes. While we are checking the boxes of all the things we need to do before school starts, may we look up and see one another - and prioritize kindness over lists.
C is for cereal. Thank you God for colorful, easy breakfasts - and bless the hands that prepare our students’ breakfasts.
D is for dessert. May we all make time to share in unnecessary moments of joy in the midst of a long day.
E is for excitement. May we never be too old to share in a child’s excitement for learning.
F is for friends. In the midst of a global pandemic, may God bless children’s friendships — and help the adults in their lives to show them how to be caring, considerate, and humble friends.
G is for grace. We are all stressed, angry, and frustrated for good reason. May we treat one another with grace and offer forgiveness whenever possible.
H is for help. May parents, teachers, students and administrators see themselves as helping one another, and not as adversaries.
I is for imagination. We need new imagination to see our way out of this crisis. May our schools be filled with kind and imaginative thinkers, and may teachers be given the space to foster imagination.
J is for jokes. May we all make room for healing laughter.
K is for kindness. May our kids bring kindness with them as they enter the school building, and may they be met with kindness from others.
L is for llamas. May we remember the gift of learning about animals, and that this earth is not only ours, but also the home to plants and animals.
M is for maps. As students learn about the vastness of the world, may they develop empathy for all of God’s people.
N is for No. Sometimes the answer is No. No, your right not to wear a mask does not supersede the school’s right to create a safe environment for learning.
O is for outside. May students attend schools with safe and accessible outdoor space to learn through play.
P is for play. May students play together and teach one another about creativity and patience.
Q is for quit. Sometimes it’s OK to quit. May we teach discernment and flexibility to our children.
R is for red. I pray for all the colorful artwork that students will make in school this year, and may it help them appreciate the beauty of the world all around them, and the beauty inside themselves.
S is for smart. May students learn that being smart takes dedication, patience, and listening to others — and knowing that there is much they do not know.
T is for teachers. May we honor our teachers.
U is for umbrellas. May students have access to all the gear they need to get to and from school safely.
V is for violence. May we support our schools and students in their efforts to combat gun violence, and may we do our part to support non-violence in our homes.
W is for water. After a season of devastating drought in many areas, may we teach our students how to conserve and appreciate access to water.
X is for X-cellent. May we prioritize excellence in grace, kindness, and truth.
Y is for you. That you may know that God is watching over you and your family as you prepare for the school year ahead.
Z is for Zoom. May we see the ways God has blessed our schools, students and families over the past two years — even in unexpected ways — and trust that God’s providence will continue to guide our children, our teachers, and ourselves.
Angela Denker, author of Red State Christians: Understanding the Voters who elected Donald Trump (Fortress: August 2019), is a Lutheran Pastor and veteran journalist who has written for Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, Christian Century, and Christianity Today. She has pastored congregations in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orange County (Calif.), the Twin Cities, and rural Minnesota.
To write Red State Christians, Angela spent 2018 traveling across America to interview Christians and Christian leaders in red states and counties. While spending time with the people in her book - and her own loved ones living in red states and counties, she found surprise, warning, opportunity and hope. In retelling those stories, she hopes to build empathy and dialogue without shying away from telling hard truths about the politicization of religion and the prevalence of Christian Nationalism in churches across America.
Twitter | @angela_denker
Facebook | @angeladenker1
Website | https://www.angeladenker.com
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