This I Believe

William - Winston Salem, North Carolina
Entered on November 20, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: children

This I Believe: An NPR Submission

Believing in children has a sweet ring to it, blameless in its innocence and purity. With billions of children in the world, it offers powerful simplicity to carry one’s belief sack.

In my line of work as a child care administrator, it is a privilege to observe this innocence every day. In the smallest ones I see their wide-eyed admiration of teachers and their respect for life’s little organizational routines. They appreciate the order of the lunch line and the holding of hands when they cross the road. They have yet to learn the vaulted importance of name brands and code words. Satire and sarcasm bounce off them, even if the tone may not.

Children retain an imagination to believe most anything. Someday the Democrats and Republicans will work together, and the world’s religions will see Peace as a God-given expectation. I think I can believe this too when I hang out with my kids. Children don’t verbalize those things, of course, but if given a multiple choice examination, I believe they would land on the side of loving each other and their neighbor before coveting their tennis shoes or natural resources.

Life’ tough choices and tough questions will find them soon enough. There is no point to rush them.

When asked if they prefer being the last child left behind or having clean air for the rest of their life, who knows what their sweetness might evoke? Would they choose the purity of a single, peaceful, but starving race or abundant food for a world of diversity and dissent?

In the same big-world paradigm, would they prefer a homosexual parent or celibate religious leader as their mayor, scout leader or President? Would religion or family or country carry the day with their naiveté?

Most child-like decisions, however, are neither innocent nor sweet. Most are intrinsically selfish. But as adults, we can accept that reality in exchange for a short glimpse at the pristine.

Believing in children is mostly a statement about believing in human potential. Can their care and schooling bring us back to effective self-governance; a more fulfilling sense of humanity? Will their appreciation for others grow into a world embrace which no one will confuse as imperial or arrogant?

I believe in Benjamin Spock and Bill Bennett, in Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton, – but mostly I believe in the cherubic spirit that was once a part of their dreaming. That these men – and their female counter-parts – might have become hard or less innocent does not detract from what was once upon a time their potential to heal and lead and celebrate those about them. We cannot turn history back to the childhood in each of us, but we can do a better job with the potential in front of us.

If not the children of our world and our charge, is there any belief worth sharing?