Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Imagine...let it be

Brenda is a fourth-grader at my elementary school in South Carolina. Her father and mother moved here from Mexico, and Brenda speaks Spanish at home and English at school. Fluent in both languages, she is a quiet, thoughtful child with contemplative eyes and attentive ears. Like most other fourth-graders, Brenda laughs when a friend tickles her. She cries if she falls and scrapes her knee. And she has stories to tell if you will listen. She is also a scholar and a saint in the wonderful ways a 10-year-old can be scholarly and saintly. She reads anything about everything at every opportunity and volunteers her early mornings to read to struggling first-graders.

I took a few minutes to ask Brenda about her hopes and dreams.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked.

"I want to be a doctor," she answered.

When I talk with students, I often use the "5 Whys" strategy to get a better understanding of what they are thinking and feeling. For each answer a student gives, I ask why until I have five answers to the initial question.


"Because I think it would be a good job."


"Because I like to study and I want to help people."


"Because I want to help babies grow and experience more in the United States."


"Because I want them to live."

Brenda does not want power, prestige or position. She wants to help It is as simple and as complex as that.

Her answer helped me think about “Imagine a World Without Hate”™ a video the Anti-Defamation League created to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

As John Lennon's song “Imagine” plays in the background, people read, browse and watch news with such imagined headlines as:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 84, Champions Immigration Reform

Anne Frank Wins Nobel Prize for her 12th Novel

Harvey Milk Expands LGBT Equality Globally

Daniel Pearl, 49, Journalist, wins Pulitzer for "Uncovering Al-Qaeda"

James Byrd, Jr., 63, Jasper, TX Resident Saves Young Girl From Burning Building

This video asks a simple question: "What could these people have continued to do for the world if bigotry, hate and extremism hadn't cut their lives so short?"

It's a great question.

But the question for me, as a teacher and a writer, is not so much: "What could have been?" It is: "What can be?"

What can be for Brenda? I hope she takes up the work these people started and carries it forward with her life. She wants to become a doctor so she can help people live. With that spirit, she will help these martyrs live, too.

It is my job as a teacher and a writer not only to help students imagine a world without hate, but also to help them find the tools and the heart to build it. That is how I can build a world without hate.

Imagine...and let it be.

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