Tell Me What Prayer You Say
Tell me what prayer you say
when you’ve been afraid, terrorized, misunderstood, forgotten, discarded.
What words do you use?
Do you have faith?
What prayer do you say when your body, mind, soul, life
have been trampled on, or assaulted?
What prayer do you say when you’re fighting for your life,
or the lives of others?
Is marching your prayer?
What songs do you sing when they’ve stolen everything,
Burnt or tortured or shot through you or near you?
After you’ve buried your family, fled, drowned, collapsed?
What is your prayer for the child alone at sea?
Which direction do you face?
East or west?
Where is your True north or south?
Is your head covered or exposed?
What prayer do you say when they have come for you,
labeled, sorted, and separated you,
detained you, stripped you, held you down, shackled you, enslaved you?
What is your prayer for the ones who are already dead, or for the dying?
What about Saying the Names or the markers or protecting the sacred grounds?
What about the wind and the sun?
What about the Earth?
What prayer do you say when your child wants to
live, but there’s not enough food, water, air, shelter, medicine?
The bombs and guns and bullets shatter everything in classrooms and
in all the broken places here or there.
Where is the clean air, the safe drinking water, the place for dreaming?
What prayer did you say when they took your father, mother, brother, sister, child, land, food, water, home, homeland?
Are you standing?
Do you pray at night?
Do tears roll into your pillow?
Do you have a pillow?
Are the stars your roof?
What prayer do you say when you’re kneeling,
leaning against a wall, stretching down on the rug,
sitting on a bench, or a branch?
Are you dancing in a field?
Do you light candles and drink wine?
Do you have bread?
Are there flowers? Feathers? Stones? Beads? Holy water?
When you stand on the mountain or in the valley or on the street corner
do you see a way forward?
Are we not, every single one of us here under the same sky?
Do you pray to go forward, or are you about surviving only this next minute?
Is it the same thing? Is standing still an option? Do you carry signs?
Is your prayer Resistance? Is your prayer Justice and Freedom for every single human, or just for some?
What prayer did you say when you were abandoned, lied to,
when you were disapproved of, given up on, turned away from, shut out,
stepped on, beaten down, shackled, locked in?
What prayer do you say if you’re not strong enough?
If you’re sick?
If you’re dying?
What prayer do you say for living?
For animals and bees, rivers and trees?
Is there a prayer for when you’ve lost hope?
Who hears that prayer?
What if you don’t believe in God or that anyone is listening, or anyone cares?
You are different, you are the same, and you’ve been hurt badly.
You’re holding on, broken inside, and your legs buckle.
You’re still grateful for your legs,
and the floor beneath you.
What prayer did you say? All those years
you’ve cried over the elephants, bears, seals, the coral reef,
the lost and stolen children, the tigers, the lions, the whale,
and you’ve done everything you could
And, it is never enough, and you tire of fighting to be seen, to be recognized,
for your birthright,
your human right; that you are born, and therefore, you exist,
a human, born for
Peace and Love, but denied it daily.
Until you’re buried, and even then the liars and bulldozers come.
You’ve cried over children and the ground, over hangings, over beatings,
Over evil in hoods or suits, they shape shift,
They bear unwanted gifts, stealing lives.
We cry together over lost dreams
and broken pipes, while poison flows, and the tears of millions fall.
Still: silence and violence. Still: Never Again.
But, it continues, over and over again, never stopping.
What are the words for that?
What picture do you paint?
What dance do you dance?
What music do you play or sing?
What funny story do you tell?
How do you pray when you don’t believe in prayer?
What is your prayer today?
When you need a miracle; that is: a hand up, a door opened, someone who sees you and doesn’t look away when you’re suffering.
What if your prayer isn’t heard today but you need it to be heard today?
Who has your back?
Who’s with you?
Who gets it?
When you’ve been hurt and you already despair and a man of the cloth
Says, go die, what prayer is there for that?
When you or someone you know has given up, and too many around you want you gone,
And all you want is air, water, to be free, to love.
When after waiting, after being crushed, after disappointment, after being silenced, after broken promises or treaties, after despair, and somehow you’re still standing,
and maybe you even know that you’ll never give up,
And you know exactly what you’re fighting for, but you still need help.
How do you help?
Did you ask what is needed?
Did you listen?
Is your prayer a hug, a bowl of rice, warm gloves?
When hope is gone, what is your prayer?
How do you pray for strength and to not give up?
Which part of you do you call on to get through the day? This hour?
Is your job not to save another?
Is every child and creature not a world of wonder?
Does your planet not spin? Does gravity not hold you here?
In your prayers,
Do you see light and the infinite colors?
Do you float? Rise? Chant?
Do you say: count me, too.
Have you saved yourself?
Have you saved another?
Tell me what prayer you say.
© Elana Halberstadt, January 27, 2017
As we near the end of the school year (only three days left next week), I got to thinking about my early days at school.
I started ballet lessons soon after seeing Swan Lake when I was four years old. I remember wearing my blue velvet dress and white tights and looking at the stage and thinking–I want to do that. My teacher, Paulette, taught me how to grasp the barre, how to hold my head up, how to tie my hair in a bun, my first plies. There was leaping across the wood floor.
My 2nd or 3rd grade teacher (I can’t remember her name) taught me how to write haikus. One day she said, “You don’t have to give a fake smile when your real smile is so beautiful.”
My gym teacher in 3rd grade made up knock knock jokes with my name, it was funny and silly (pre-politically correct days) and I learned to walk on the balance beam and do gymnastics. I was a good sprinter and did well running short distances really fast. One of my teachers (was it Miss Julie?) ran a Boston Marathon and we went to cheer her on. I was terrible at baseball, always afraid the ball would hit me. Once I hit a home run, but had to be told (yelled at, really), “RUN! Go, go, go!” I never liked ball sports. That’s been a constant. These days, I enjoy a short game of throwing a ball back and forth (preferably a large, light, beach ball type deal) with M. Somehow with him its fun.
In 4th grade I won my first art award, Best Design for The Great Paper Airplane Contest. It remains one of my prized possessions. I had painted my paper airplane with the blue stars and stripes of the Israeli flag, rainbow colors, peace signs, and flowers. It didn’t go far or fast, but that wasn’t the point.
Ever since I was very little, I was into the arts and the performing arts . I did well with language, reading, and writing. I adored painting, drawing, and just about any art project. I loved dancing and playing make-believe and had a very imagination filled childhood. I spent hours making up stories, making mud pies, talking to imaginary characters in my head, in the garden. I don’t remember being tested much. I don’t remember having to do excessive amount of homework. But maybe that’s the kind of stuff one forgets? I don’t know.
I watch M and he spends a long time making up his own stories. His most interesting pictures are those he makes himself in the spur of the moment— inspired by something, he will say, “I need paper and to paint.” And off he goes, choosing his markers, crayons, or sometimes coming into my room asking me for my paints. Sometimes we paint side by side. I never tell him what to do. I ask open-ended questions. I tell him all colors are beautiful, and he can choose whichever he wants and put them together anyway he likes. I tell him there are no mistakes in art. He usually has confidence when he draws, or paints. He does his thing. One teacher told me last week that “he’s an out of the box thinker.” I beamed with pride.
I’m lucky, I guess, to have had a progressive, well-rounded public school education in the suburbs of Boston in the 1970s. To have had parents who were artists (wacky, no doubt) who believed in coloring outside the lines. I have passed that on to M. And I hope what happens in our district doesn’t squash what he has. If I was a child who had to go through what is being suggested for my child, I’d be sad. And I am sad, that the district we live in now, that we moved to especially for the schools, is now infected with a sickness of sorts.
I wonder if or how teachers can teach freely, passionately, and happily when they’re afraid. I wonder what kind of effect that has on the atmosphere of a school. I wonder how much that will be noticed when M goes back in September. Or by some miracle will things stay the same? Is it possible? I dread what might happen but at the same time, can’t let M know all this. How do I make everything be OK? This is a child who wants to play. Paint. Make up stories. Be with friends. Investigate and explore. If they say he must be tested or assessed in first grade, do I allow it? Do I opt him out? Instead of sitting here simply able to enjoy his accomplishment of finishing Kindergarten, I’m now worried about what first grade will bring. I try to compartmentalize this so that I can be here now and be happy in what he’s done and where we are. His potential, abilities, and mind are always growing and changing, but some things of his essence probably will probably stay the same. I will do whatever I have to to make sure he gets the kind of learning he needs. I thought I had found IT. But IT has changed. The ground we stand on has shifted.
Goodnight, good morning.
Whew. The Revolution has begun! So much going on and I’m prepping for the next BOE meeting on Monday. Hoping to get a big turn out of parents and community.
And tomorrow is Father’s Day. For anyone celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful day. Here’s to all the dads who make our children’s world go around.
Mine taught me how to be a rabble-rouser; to speak up and protest when I see injustice. He taught me how to read starting when I was a toddler. He used antique printing blocks to teach me letters and words. We had an old printing press for woodcuts (made by my mother) and signs and did all kinds of hand printing work, too. He helped me publish my first “book.” He showed me how make art; how to capture a moment in photography; how to look for light or shadows and really see them. Among many other things, he’s been a Civil Rights , social, and environmental justice activist for decades, and to this very day.
Thank you, Dad.
It’s day 5 of the WordCount Blogathon 2013. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a real challenge to post every day so far. But, I’m humbled and grateful for the incredible support I’m receiving from you: new subscribers, old timers, bloggers, friends, family, colleagues, teachers and parents. It’s great to get your feedback. Every good word you send me helps a whole lot and gives me energy to push forward. Thank you!
Still working on reading through the latest draft plan and attempting to understand it.
From the current Strategic Plan Draft for our district, first page, Core Beliefs:
There’s more. Let’s just think about those top three beliefs for a moment. This wonderful blog from a teacher addresses these issues really well.
And this piece from Salon.
I’m sick and tired of the ongoing dismissal of the many out of school factors that contribute to a child’s “success” or “achievement” at school. I’m always happy to see articles that debunk the reformers theories about “achievement” and “gaps.”
There’s big disparity between the rich and the poor. They live at opposite ends of a spectrum, in some places within a few blocks of one another. They might as well be worlds apart. To dismiss these factors is to dismiss reality. Children shouldn’t be tested or assessed as if that is the solution or way out of this problem. The children have not created or caused their situation. Their parents want the best for them, just like the parents in the mansions want the best for their children. Just like the people in the modest family homes do, too. The size and type of our houses doesn’t define how much we love our children.
It’s as if the system is punishing our most vulnerable population for circumstances beyond their control. But the business model being implemented dictates testing, measuring, assessing and rigorous standards, high expectations for all, uniformity, conformity, rigidity and from that we will have ACHIEVEMENT and SUCCESS and COLLEGE AND CAREER READY. They tell us this is the way, but it isn’t the right way. It is the absolute wrong way.
Maybe one day in America, we’ll understand what has been done here. Blaming and then hurting the poor, the sick, seniors, children, women, the middle class, teachers, unions, heck everyone —-except the greedy, rich, super powerful billionaires who are behind all this; along with the politicians they party with on yachts and in super sized homes with marble countertops imported from Italy, while the rest of us citizens try to save our schools from ruination. We make lunches on laminate counters we’re happy to have because we have food to cut on the cutting board that we set down upon these very counters and which we take out of our fridge which is from the previous century, and (gasp) not stainless. How do we manage it? Oh, the horror of a non updated kitchen.
But I digress.
The Learning Revolution Project gives me hope —many people are looking for a different future in education.
Let me leave you with this lovely bit on creativity and imagination.
I’ll stop there for now. Lots of info. Lots of work ahead.
Time for bed. Good dreams.
Love and peace,
Belated Chanukah wishes…
Got this lovely card from my mother with a donation that she made to the American Bird Conservancy for Chanukah.
Another bit of cuteness from school. Max says Snowman Soup is delicious.
I received this holiday card from an old friend.
Wishing you health, love, peace, laughs, joy and all things merry and bright!
Thank you for reading and being there.
Again, in the unfolding of yet another epic tragedy this day, Friday, December 14, 2012. Reading in tiny bits, because I can’t tolerate and function as a good mother if I allow myself to read or watch or see too much and my job is to protect and take care of my son first, before everything or anything else. Max is home sick today. Were he at school, I might have driven over there to take him home upon hearing the news. Or I’d have resisted, telling myself, but he’s safe there. But, he’s here, so I’ve got the good fortune to know he’s OK. I’m considering homeschooling at this moment. The information isn’t palatable, it isn’t acceptable, it is too awful, too heartbreaking, too senseless, beyond understanding—-the horrifying news about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, today. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this monumental tragedy today.
My current Facebook status:
“Our country must find a way to stop the gun insanity now. I feel like a broken record along with many other voices screaming into the wind about this for ages now. How many more of these insane, senseless, heartbreaking tragedies will occur before we stop this? This country is on a killing spree. Apparently, there is a green light and OK to gun down wolves and other helpless animals. It is apparently also acceptable in our country to gun down children in schools. The mentality and warped thinking behind both the reckless treatment of wildlife and abuse of the environment here and our citizens — is one and the same. Approximately 32 people die daily from gun violence. They die in places that never make the national news. We have to make it NOT BE OK ANYMORE FOR THIS TO HAPPEN ANYWHERE. It has to stop. The violent gun culture and bullying from the NRA and all those who are beholden to the money and greed and who have twisted the “Right to bear arms” into something completely insane, must be taken down and stopped. Our children deserve better than this. We all deserve better. And we can do better and we simply have to. But it will take large numbers of MORE people speaking up and protesting and writing letters and holding our leaders accountable. Please help be the change on this.”
Mothers and fathers holding their breath and waiting and finding out something that one doesn’t wish on an enemy; the loss of a child. The murder of children. Children. At school. The words, multiple victims. 100 rounds. Maybe more. The complete and utter insanity of our country’s gun laws; weapons of war with ridiculously easy access to anyone; the criminal, the insane, the hopeless, the angry, the mentally unstable, the killer, the one who fell through the cracks of the system. Anyone. The screaming into the wind of advocates and activists and mayors and teachers and doctors and nurses and citizens, parents and children –—screaming into the cold wind today, falling on knees, lost in grief today. Today, yesterday, and what will tomorrow bring? Monday? How does one go about breathing after this? My heart breaks and aches for the families, the community, the school, the friends and children. It is enough. It is more than enough. Can the lessons please be learned now? I demand answers from our government. I demand change. We must rise up and scream loudly together, please, it must change. It is the seventh night of Chanukah tonight. I want GUN CONTROL. Speaking of light, can our leaders please WAKE UP and see the LIGHT? It is 10 days before Christmas Eve. How about GUN CONTROL for Christmas?
Make no mistake. There is no safe place for our children in America today. There is no school or movie theater or mall or space anywhere that is safe as long as there are weapons and ammunition flowing like milk, every day, everywhere. There is a war in America. There is a war on our children in America. There is a failing mental health system. There is a glorified culture of violence, greed, power, and abuse. There are also wolves being hunted down, innocent, beautiful creatures, gunned down for no reason. It is the same mentality behind the gun control issue and the destruction of our environment and the killing of innocents—wildlife, children. It is the same forces behind both that are evil and power hungry and thoughtless and harmful to all living beings. This is the source of our downfall. It must change. We are all connected. We will all fall down together.
Mothers know that if a child is lost the mother will never recover even if she appears to. Even if “time passes.” Even if “she heals.” Mothers know that losing one’s child is likely the single worst thing that can possibly befall a human being and every mother lives with the fear that something could happen to her child for her entire life and every mother prays that she be the one to go first, as is the natural order of things. And every day, mothers send their children to school, even knowing this. But no one knows the pain of it until it happens to you, the specific mother, for whom life is over in ways that no one understands; each individual loss being unique and irreplaceable and impossible to know. A grief which makes one wish the sun could stop shining, and the moon not rise, or stars evaporate, because your world has become something that cannot be lived in anymore. To live in the pain of that loss is something every mother hopes she never has to face. How does one go on breathing after losing a child? And in this way? I don’t know. This was an elementary school. I don’t know anything anymore.
Every mother is feeling the pain and loss from afar, but the mothers who lost, we can’t even hold or comfort because they’ve just all entered into a different dimension and are on another planet now, even though here on earth, wishing perhaps to be swallowed up, wishing for death, because the pain of the loss is too great to bear.
Would there be a grace to come upon the families, the mothers of the children who have been murdered today. Oh, but we cannot take away what has been done. There is no comfort. There is no grace.
Mothers know that one child lost is too many. Mothers know that if a mother somewhere else is grieving, a mother across the planet will feel her pain and cry real tears of loss with her, a complete stranger, across the world, or next door. But we cannot stand in her place, imagining, heaven forbid, saying that, oh, there but for the grace of God go I, that it could be, heaven forbid, in my child’s school. Whether you believe in God or heaven or not, only imagining for a few minutes at a time, or we’d be collapsed on the floor and we have children we must care for. I don’t believe God has a hand in this. I believe guns and ammunition and gun laws that make no sense and a lack of mental health services are the hand in this. A shooter has a hand in this. The ones he got the guns from have a hand in this. The NRA has a hand in this. The government that won’t change the laws has a hand in this.
So we will reserve our cries for later, in bed, to cry into our pillows over the lives lost and the parents mourning their children. And, if only. If only. Maybe in the future, but that is too late for the people suffering today. All the lives shattered. When can it be enough? The pain is too great, today. It is too great the pain that has taken children away from their mothers and fathers today. And every single one of us must think of the lost children today and their parents’ suffering and imagine standing in their shoes. Then take action. Because we are all potential targets of madmen with guns and it is on all of us to demand change. If ever there was a national crisis, and a moment of reckoning, this is it.
There is no time to wait; this is not political for the sake of politics or party,
This is human survival time. This is the time to demand justice for our children and our wildlife because it is one and the same –behind the killing of children and helpless animals and the ruination of our planet —- allowing that to happen and not stopping it—it is all different shades of murder. Children and our wildlife are innocents. They are to be protected. Not gunned down. Not gunned down in fields or at school. Elementary school. Where is the mercy and the clarity and the wisdom we mothers (and so many fathers) know already? Why are our voices not heard? Who are the men who hate children so much that they must clutch their automatic weapons designed as killing machines for war and tell us they have the right to bear arms in this way? Who does this? Why the guns? When we will our nation say it must stop now? Now. Not next year. Not in six months. Now. Today. Can this be the last time? I’ve asked that before. Countless others have asked it. I doubt it will be the way things are going, even as flags are lowered, as candles are lit, as vigils held, prayers offered in the dark, circles of grief expanding. But I have this deeply held wish that it will change if we all just make enough noise about it. Or is time to leave? Is that the answer? I don’t know anymore. Other countries seem to have this worked out a lot better than we do.
This is the exact time (we are long overdue, but, oh, please, let it be NOW) for a radical change in our gun control laws. It can be done. It can be done. Let’s make it done.
Because a six year old says things like this:
“Drawing is like making your dreams come true. It’s like you’re making a story without words.”
And creates work like this:
And believes that there are safe places.
And believes home and school and the street are safe places.
And sees the world in color.
And believes dreams come true.
And brings joy.
Mothers and Fathers know this.
We’re just breathing now.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY: