How to Teach Children About Social Justice

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NOTE: I originally published this piece on 2/26/18 on my other blog, This Family Is Sacred.

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Our church struggled today to “teach children about social justice.” Let’s try again.

First, teach them about God. Walk with them in the woods, holding their hands against the bark of living trees. Scoop the worm up with a gentle palm, feeling her living muscles pulse as she moves. Watch for the chipmunk, bright and quick. Their energy is your energy; it is all the living pulse of God. Let awe be born in the childrens’ hearts.

Keep teaching them about God. Hold the child close when he comes to you for a hug. Sing raucously with her when she’s joyous; sit by her side through the night when she’s sick. Wrap your home in the love of the generations that came before you. Teach them love until they readily and honestly say “I love you!”.

Teach them about the grace of God. Wash them with forgiveness in addition to laundry soap when they spill their dinner one too many times. Tell them when you’ve made a mistake yourself, own it quickly, and genuinely seek a way to make it better. Let their hearts fill with courage.

Teach them gratitude for God’s abundance. There is enough for everyone, you say, as you pass out grapes to your child and her friends. I love you both, you say, as you wrap one arm around your spouse and the other around your jealous toddler. Help them trust there is enough.

Without love, there is no reason to care if some are oppressed and others are not.

Without grace, the white guilt and self-doubt will strangle us and stunt our efforts.

Without gratitude for abundance, we will be too afraid to share equitably with others.

Without awe, we forget that our souls are boundless, our connection irrevocable.

Teach them awe, love, grace, and gratitude, and their hearts will be courageous, their thoughts will be clear. When they see other human beings in the world around them, they will know them as kindred spirits. From that place of connection, they will not be able to tolerate injustice.

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