You can still learn it in kindergarten.
My sister does the heroic work that is the public school equivalent to a prep cook in a kitchen, a weight trainer on an NFL team or a computer programmer for NASA. Without them, we would have no Iron Chefs, no Super Bowl winners, no space exploration.
My sister is a kindergarten teacher.
She calls it herding kittens. I call it tilling the soil of our future because what happens during a child’s first year in school is so often the bellwether of success or failure for a student in the circuitous 13-year system that is public education. Leaders are born and buried in that system.
So I’m eager to relay this story from a kindergarten class in one of the “boom-burbs” of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
My sister received an untimely summons for jury duty recently – the last week before the holiday break at her school. The kindergarteners are receiving some intense hands-on lessons about the holiday traditions of a variety of faiths and cultures. Each teacher is specializing in one particular tradition.
My sister’s assignment for the week was Hanukkah. She was scheduled to teach the traditions of the Jewish Festival of Lights to every kindergarten class on Wednesday – the very day she has been called to court to do her duty as a good citizen of the United States of America.
She contacted her favorite sub to fill in for her. As she worked on lesson plans for the day, my sister realized she was asking a conservative, head-covered Muslim woman to teach Jewish traditions all day. So, in the name of cultural sensitivity, she called the substitute and apologetically confessed that she didn’t even know if her question was appropriate. “Do you have a problem teaching Hanukkah to kindergarteners?”
The woman was more than gracious.
“Oh no,” she told my sister. “There is one God who loves all people. I believe we will all eventually stand together before that God.” Then she added, “And, I also love all people. Of course I will teach the traditions of Hanukkah.”
And so candles of the menorah were lit in a kindergarten classroom in Mansfield, Texas, by a Muslim woman, who is filling in for a Christian woman.
It’s an example for little children that the rest of the world needs to see.
Whether you light candles for eight days, decorate evergreens in your living room, fast from dawn until sunset for a month or feast ’round the clock from Dec. 26 till Jan. 1, there is one God.
I believe this kind of lesson is our one hope for peace on Earth.
And we probably learned it in kindergarten.
Jan Chapman is a former broadcast journalist, a storyteller and a blogger. She is a member of Church of the Savior, a UCC congregation with Baptist roots in Austin, Texas. She blogs at Thinking in Peaces.