So many people feel so overwhelmed and disempowered by the stress of the current moment that they convince themselves they can’t make a difference. So they don’t even try. They bury their talents in the ground and let their spirits wither on the vine of life. I hope they will bestir themselves at least to say every day as an anonymous old man did: “I don’t have the answers, life is not easy, but my heart is in the right place.”
It is so important not to let ourselves off the hook or to become apathetic or cynical by telling ourselves that nothing works or makes a difference. Every day, light your small candle. Tutor or mentor or speak to or smile at that one child—your own or one you teach or serve in some way. Every month decide to write a letter to the editor and to your representatives about a need children have in your community. Every election, take the time to vote for leaders who put children first and against those who don’t.
The inaction and actions of many human beings over a long time contributed to the crises our nation and children face, and it is the action and struggle of many human beings over time that will solve them—with God’s help. So every day, light your small candle. It just might be the one that sparks the movement to save our children’s and nation’s future.
God, please help us remember that all the darkness in the world cannot snuff out the light of one little candle. Help us to keep lighting our little candles until a mighty torch of justice.
Sometimes I forget who is in charge of my life and of our children’s cause and get caught up in the ebbs and flows of politics and policy. When child protections that have taken decades of struggle to pass are threatened with repeal or severe budget cuts, I get depressed until I remember to pray. I often gain strength from an episode in Saint Ignatius Loyola’s life, related by Alan Paton:
When his life’s work was threatened, St. Ignatius Loyola was asked what he would do if Pope Paul IV dissolved or otherwise acted against the Society of Jesus, to which he had devoted his energy and gifts; and he replied: “I would pray for fifteen minutes, then I would not think of it again.”
O God help us to remember that You have the whole world in Your hands—every child in every circumstance everywhere.
Marian Wright Edelman is Founder and President Emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund