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
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.
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:
I hope you’re all safe and sound after the storm. We’re OK.
I just started writing a post about the storm and after the storm. Then I saw a post and pic (see below) on Sesame Street’s Facebook page today. Since this show airs tomorrow –in the NY area, on WNET-13, it’s on at 7:00am—I’m sending this out now.
I highly recommend it for anyone with young children; anyone who may have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy or who knows someone who’s been affected; or for anyone who’s human with access to power and a TV.
As with everything Sesame Street produces, this special episode is helpful for children and grown ups alike. It touches on a range of emotions experienced by so many, but that are often difficult to express, understand, or cope with.
Info and activities for parents and children:
And more resources:
Stay well and warm,
From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page:
“On Friday, we’ll be airing a very special episode of Sesame Street.
A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird’s friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused. His friends help him cope with his emotions by talking about what happened, drawing pictures together, and giving him lots of hugs. They also comfort Big Bird by offering him temporary places he can eat, sleep, and play. Big Bird remembers all the good times he had at his nest and realizes that once it is rebuilt, there are more good times and memories to come. Finally the day has come where most of the repairs to Big Bird’s home are done and his nest is complete. As he is about to try it out, though, the city nest inspector says it not safe, yet, because the mud isn’t dry. Big Bird is sad that he has to wait another day, but Snuffy comes to the rescue and blows the nest dry and he passes the test! Big Bird thanks everyone for being his friend and helping to rebuild his nest and his home.”
Please check your local listings to see what time the episode “Sesame Street Gets Through a Storm” will air on PBS, at
I’m sorry I couldn’t post per usual on Friday. It’s a long story. Here’s a short post for today:
My dear friends at Sesame Street are tackling the topic of hunger.
A new special, “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” is airing tonight on PBS. Written and produced by two great friends: Christine Ferraro (super talented, multiple Emmy and WGA award winning writer) and Melissa Dino (amazing, super talented, and multiple Emmy award winning producer).
I think we can all agree that no one should have to go hungry. Especially children. It’s high time to shine a light and raise awareness. I suppose that those who know, do and help. But a lot of people are unaware. So, please pass it on, share the info, and let’s all keep doing whatever we can to help those in need. No child should go hungry. Here, overseas, or anywhere. Period.
I’ll be watching. I hope you will, too.
Love and peace,
An excerpt from a poem, “A Lament for the Missing” written at 441 West 49th Street, Apartment 13, New York, NY 10019
on 9/18/2001 ©Elana A. Halberstadt
When we say the missing, we mean everything we have lost.
Everything that was supposed to be.
Everything we’ll never have.
Weddings and anniversary celebrations. Birthdays. Descendants.
Beyond the monumental life events, it is the mundane, everyday moments we
will miss the most.
The moments of the missing.
A dinner table with an empty seat.
A car parked without an owner to claim it.
When we say the missing, we mean the ones left behind have been deprived a
One more kiss.
A phone call to remind them to buy milk on the way home.
We mean children whose parents will never tuck them into bed, or tell them a
hold them to reassure them that the world can be a beautiful place.
We mean the photos and mementos covered in dust.
When we say dust and ashes,
We mean the concrete, the documents, and the souls devoured in flames.
When we say the missing, we mean what a miracle to survive.
We mean the near-misses.
The missing of being there that morning.
I was late that morning. I went to vote. I took my kid to school. I was on vacation.
I took a different flight.
I wasn’t there, but I could have been.
The lucky ones who escaped down countless floors that we cannot stop
ask themselves, How did I get out? Why me?
We all ask ourselves,
Why am I saved and not the others?