Schools and Prayers

“Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence.” It’s not easy for me to tell you this, but I hate the idea of forcing students to stand each day to recite a pledge to anything. Coercive acts just seem manipulative. Good citizens can be good citizens without pledges. Right? Well, there’s something to ritual and this post isn’t about pledges, it’s about prayers.

I feel a sense of awe with every visit to Washington, D.C.

The moment of silence is designed to give students the opportunity to pray, to reflect, or to breathe and twirl their thumbs. When I was angry at the country and my state’s rituals, I didn’t take that moment for myself. Who needs it, right? I hadn’t been to church for anything but funerals and weddings since 2004 and God and I had reached an impasse at approximately the same time I began studying philosophy. The announcements, pledge, and silence were just preventing me from doing what I needed to do. I needed to work. That wasn’t work.

In 2016, I changed my mindset. I realized that the moment of silence didn’t need to be about me. It didn’t need to be about my relationship with my God. It didn’t need to be a burden. It could be part of my work.

For the next thirty months, I’d use that moment to speak this in my mind:

I pray that today’s better than yesterday and tomorrow’s better than today. I pray their big problems become small problems and their small problems opportunities. I pray that their relationships with parents, teachers, and friends will help them grow and that they’ll find peace where there’s now trouble.

It was a simple way of putting good vibes out into the world. Who was I praying to? I don’t know. Who was I praying for? It ended up being applicable to everyone. I just wanted you to be better not because you weren’t good enough, but because better’s what you deserved. I still want that.

What’s wrong with wishing others well?

I don’t have a moment of silence now. I don’t have cheery students coming over the public address system to tell me it’s time to hope the best for others. That’s something I miss. Honestly, I also miss them reminding me of basketball games being played, students being recognized for their achievements, and sales of things I wouldn’t be buying, but at least I’d understand the market.

We need to be informed and we need to be part of life, out in it. But we also need to take the time to put good into the world. To remind ourselves, and others, that we can make things better.

I used to “go to the library” after school with my mentor. We read many books. The library was a bar, the books were beer, and our reading was talking for hours about how to improve life, love, learning, and everything else. I was always excited about that opportunity and it happened again in 2014 when I went to graduate school and would meet other students to read books at the library. I mention this because I’ve just realized the photos most duplicated in my cover photos on Facebook have something in common. The flag.

As much as I love reading books or “reading books” on January 30, 2014, I didn’t document the dialogue, I didn’t photograph the library. I stopped, snapped, and shared this:

Reverence in weird places; unofficial pledges

There’s still allegiance and I may even appreciate ceremonial gestures. If you get anything out of these blogs, and I hope you do, would you consider a gesture of your own and share with your friends on your social networks? I have received private messages explaining how they’ve helped people and it’s my hope everyone who could benefit from them gets that chance.

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