As I write this post I’m listening to the kids from Stoneman Douglas High School speaking to massive crowds in Washington DC.
David Hogg called for every kid in the United States to REV up. Register – Educate – Vote! Sam Fuentes, the next speaker, asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to her friend, Nicholas Dworet. That was just after she made her final request to the adults in the crowd – and in Congress: “LISTEN!!!”
When I heard that passionate request, I flashed back to 1989 when I heard another, even younger, kid make pretty much the same demand. I was teaching 8th grade and we were reading Scott Peck’s wonderful coming-of-age novel, The Day No Pigs Would Die. That day my kids taught me one of the most important things I’ve ever learned:
So now, 40 years later, those kids are in their 50’s and their kids – and probably even their grand kids – are demanding that the rest of us listen to them and LET THEM KEEP THEIR DREAMS.
Emma Gonzalez is speaking…I have to stop and listen.
(correction) Emma actually held 6 minutes of of “precious” airtime hostage – the same amount of time it took for a gunman to kill 17 kids.
What is the ONE most important thing a parent can do for a child?
I remember the day I first asked that question. It was in 1989 and I was teaching an 8th grade English class. We were reading Robert Newton Peck’s autobiographical, coming-of-age novel A Day No Pigs Would Die. The topic for discussion was the character of Haven Peck, 13-year-old Robert’s father in the story. My students were unusually animated and they all seemed to have something to say. (I did not realize what experts on parenting they were!) They had no trouble pointing out Haven’s strengths and weaknesses as a parent, and they were all anxious to share their insights on how parents should behave. It was just about the most interesting discussion I had ever had with a class.
At one point I asked what I thought was a pretty profound question – one that would give them cause to stop and think before clamoring to answer. I asked: “What is the ONE most important thing a parent should do for a child?”
Surprisingly, one hand shot up immediately. Scott was a somewhat morose kid who always sat in the corner farthest from me and as close to the back of the room as he could. He seldom participated and I’m sure sat there because the seat was closest to the door. I was so surprised to see his hand go up so quickly that I totally forgot to use the “wait time” strategy I had been taught in so many teacher training workshops.
There was fire in his eyes when I pointed to him indicating he could talk. He looked directly at me and his words were full of venom:
“I’d let them keep their dreams!!!”
Each word was pronounced clearly and separately, almost in a cadence. “I’d Let / Them Keep / Their Dreams.” Perfect iambac trimeter. Emily Dickinson would be proud. And I can still hear his words.
Scott is now grown and may have children of his own. The pain I feel comes from the fact that I don’t remember anything about him except for this one incident. In fact, I don’t even remember his real name. He just seems like a “Scott” in my memory. But his face and his words are clear: “I’d Let Them Keep Their Dreams.”
(Excerpt from Dreamkeepers – 1999 Bette Moore)