Last Friday night, our beloved next door neighbors accidentally locked themselves out of their apartment on their way to dinner and so they knocked on our door at bedtime to get the spare key we keep for them in case of emergency.
I had already wriggled my way up to the top bunk to read Faye one last bedtime story, so I stayed put while the kids answered the door in their pajamas with James.
“How was the strike?” I could hear our neighbors ask cheerfully as the kids flashed them the cardboard signs they’d carried. Faye let out a prolonged moan: “It was sooooooo boring.” Her reply could not have been more emphatic.
My heart sank. Had I made a mistake? Had I dragged my too-young kids to an event that they couldn’t understand? Would they be turned off of activism forever because of my misstep?
But as I lay in bed that night, thinking about Faye’s groan, I also thought about the countless, interminable Sunday masses that I sat through as a child. The sleepovers that I left early so I could be ready to wear my cross-bearing gown and lead the procession to the altar. The sermons that droned on without ever seeming to get to a point. I was bored. Soooooo bored. But sitting through those sermons also helped shape me. As an adult, I’ve made my own choices regarding what specifics of those Sunday morning teachings I embrace and what I reject, but I’ve carried with me the lessons of community and belonging and hope and faith.
Last week, our cathedral was the open sky of Battery Park, with the glistening Hudson River to one side and the towers of downtown Manhattan to the other. In the course of listening to speeches from Artemisa Xakriabá and Isabella Fallahi and Alexandria Villaseñor and Greta Thunberg, there were plenty of things that my kids didn’t directly understand. Indeed, I’m sure they weren’t hearing most of the words at all. They sat in the grass, staring at the calves of the adults and teenagers around them. They played with friends. Faye got her hair braided and unbraided. Silas tumbled around like a top and generally tried to allay his boredom by thwacking strangers on the feet with his cardboard sign. They occasionally felt energized and raised their signs or asked to sit on my shoulders to better see the stage. Mostly, they ate more snacks than was really reasonable. At one point, Silas begged me to “go outside,” desperate for a respite from the crowd.
They’re five and two. Of course they thought the rally was boring. But I’m so glad we went. It was an opportunity to show my kids our family’s values in action, a chance to talk to them about why we were there, and why so many other people were there with us. It was an opportunity, bored or not, for us all to feel a sense of community and belonging and hope and faith.
I’ll be chatting with Sandra Cordero, Executive Director of Families Belong Together, about how we can all continue to rally behind migrant families. There will be snacks and gigantic coloring pages for kids and 10% of all Stories Bookshop proceeds will benefit Families Belong Together. I’m so hopeful that local folks can join us. The event is free, but feel free to RSVP.