By Marian Wright Edelman
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” -- Matthew 25:31-46
As 2.3 billion Christians around our world prepare to celebrate the birth of a poor baby in Bethlehem called Jesus who they believe is the Son of God, the Congress and the President of the United States have declared war on poor babies, children, youths and families. They are working feverishly to plunder and emasculate the basic survival safety net over 13.2 million poor and millions more low and moderate income children and families need to survive: their health care, food, housing, early childhood supports, education and so much more. Why? In order to give massive tax cuts to billionaires and millionaires and powerful corporations. These fiscally irresponsible and immoral Congressional and White House actions will not only plunder the hopes and survival needs of more than 13.2 million poor children but create a $1.5 trillion noose of debt around the necks of the next generations. Their actions are simply evil. Just a few Republican Senators would need to vote no or several handfuls of Republican House Members to avert such an unjust national catastrophe and I hope and pray they will come forth and stand up for common sense and just government policies. I also hope people of all faiths will rise up against the horrific plundering of hope, fair opportunity and any semblance of decency in our governmental processes. Our children and their children do not deserve to be saddled with an additional $1.5 trillion debt to underwrite massive government welfare to powerful non-needy corporations and billionaires and millionaires.
I don’t know what scriptures members of Congress and White House leaders and special interest lobbyists read and believe in, but they should remember that God did not make two classes of children or people and that every child and person is sacred and worthy of fair treatment by their leaders. So I share the prayer of my friend Ina Hughs from Knoxville, Tennessee.
A Prayer for Children© (adapted from Ina J. Hughs)
We pray/accept responsibility for children who sneak popsicles before supper, erase holes in math workbooks, and can never find their shoes.
And we pray/accept responsibility and will stand up for children who stare at photographers behind barbed wire, who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, who never “counted potatoes,” who were born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead, who never go to the circus, and live in an X-rated world.
We pray and stand for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray and will stand up for children who never get dessert, have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents watch them die, who can’t find any bread to steal, who don’t have any rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser, and whose monsters are real.
We pray and will stand up for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories, shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub, who get visits from the tooth fairy, don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool, who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone, whose tears we sometimes laugh at and smiles can make us cry.
And we pray and will stand up for children whose nightmares come in the daytime, who will eat anything, who’ve never seen a dentist, aren’t spoiled by anybody, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep.
We pray and will stand up for children who want to be carried and for those who must, for those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance, for children we smother and for those who will grab the hand of anyone kind enough to offer it.
Let us hope and pray and raise our voices loud and ceaselessly with all our nonviolent might that there are enough Senators and Representatives with the courage to vote for children who cannot vote or speak for themselves so that our nation will not be a goat when called to account for all of God’s and America’s children. The impending budget massacre of poor, disabled, homeless, voiceless and innocent children by Republican leaders in Congress and the White House is an affront to God, human decency and purported American values.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.