Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All Children are Our Children

I just returned from the Consultation on Conscience in Washington, DC, and it was a wonderful experience. The highlight for me was hearing Marian Wright Edelman speak. A friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., she delivered the message to him from Bobby Kennedy, "Bring the poor to Washington," after sharing her frustration with Kennedy about the length of time it was taking to gain federal help for the hungry poor of the Mississippi Delta. King later told his wife, Coretta, " We should get people from all the poverty areas, from the South and from the North, people who don't have jobs or resources...It must not be just black people, it must be all poor people."

Marian Edelman founded the Children's Defense Fund and continues to take on the government daily to provide better care for the poorest among us. She spoke of a little boy who died when a tooth abscess sent an infection to his brain after his mother had gone to several dentists and had been refused by each of them because she didn't have insurance. She spoke of a 12 year old girl who had just given birth, and the new baby's grandmother is all of 24 years old herself. Teen pregnancy is on the rise again in this country. She used the metaphor of a family with six children where the five oldest receive all they need- good nutrition, clothes, activities, a decent education, etc., and the sixth child has none of these things. We are that family-a nation where 1 out of 6 children lives in poverty, and all of the children are OUR children. Why would we want anyone's child to suffer? She also said, "While thirteen million underprivileged children in the richest nation on earth are growing up in indefensible poverty without the most basic necessities of life and a fair chance to envisage a better future, millions of overprivileged children are growing up infected with the affluenza virus-- the spiritual poverty of having too much that is worth too little. Contrary to so called popular belief, the money to end childhood poverty is there. She said, "Every child could be lifted out of poverty for less than 9 months of the tax cuts for the top 1 percent and 4 months of the Iraq War. The irresponsible giveaways to our richest 300,000 Americans need to be reinvested in saving the futures of 13 million poor children. We do not have a money problem; we have a values and priorities problem."

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Her newest book The Sea is so Wide, and my Boat is so Small is a book of letters to parents, teachers, mothers/grandmothers, children, religious leaders, the government... and is worth the read. All proceeds go to the CDF, so that alone is a good reason to purchase it.

On this Earth Day, let's remember to take care of our great mother AND all of her children.