19, 000… that is the number of children who were locked out of their schools Monday morning because of the shutdown of the US government. Not only is this 19,000 children, it is children who came into this world with more strikes against them than the average child. For a large segment of these children, Head Start is the place where they receive their only daily nutritious meal, the only safe place to be cared for while their parents work or attend school, the only place where they are given an opportunity to compete academically when they enter elementary school.
I listened to an interview with Dora Jones, director of a regional area of Head Start in Florida. She expressed so much passion over the importance of children and their development. I could hear the frustration in her voice as she spoke about the parents who had to scramble to find care for their children “because two groups refuse to come together as adults and make a compromise”.
We can do better than this. Can’t we? Wasn’t it the People Called Methodists who started schools for poor children? Wasn’t it Wesley who believed that poor children especially needed the opportunity “to learn, read, write, and cast accounts”? (J&D) Our faith cannot be limited to what takes place inside the walls of a church, but should be lived out in the world serving those who are most in need. How do we, as Methodists, respond to the shutdown as it impacts children and the poor most harshly:
- Write an email, tweet, or Facebook your government officials and express how you feel
- Volunteer to take care of a child whose Head Start center has closed
- Prepare meals for families whose livelihoods have been impacted by the shutdown
- Come together with other children’s ministers to assess the needs in your community, and how you may serve these families
Above all, pray for our public officials, that they will remember that their actions effect the lives of children and the poor more deeply than any other demographic, and that they will find a way to come to the table without personal agendas…remembering the 19,000 plus.