Of Having Dreams

The kids are home from school today. I asked them if they knew why.

“Because it’s a holiday,” said the oldest.

“It’s Dr. King’s day,” said the youngest.

I asked them if they knew why we celebrated the life and achievements of Martin Luther King.

“Because it’s a holiday,” said the oldest.

“Because he did great things for civil rights,” said the youngest.

And then he sang a song about the man and what those great things were. The works of Dr. King had been the primary focus of his kindergarten curriculum for the previous week, and he had taken it to heart, for that is where his songs are kept.

I looked at the oldest, “Haven’t they talked about Dr. King at school?”

“No.”

“Do you remember talking about him last year?”

“Kind of.”

And then I made the mental note to fill in the holes that the world has dug, ashamed that I had let them grow so deep.

I sat down and explained to two small children about ignorance and hate and how they manifested themselves in the belly of a nation.

“That’s like that Nina Simone song,” said the oldest, and I smiled softly, because it certainly was. Then he hummed a few bars.

I spoke in gentle detail about harsh realities, and I couldn’t help but regret the need to do so. Their faces were alive with disgust and confusion, and the more we spoke the more another layer of innocence slipped away.

“Were they Nazis?” asked the oldest. That was an evil he understood. Between The Sound of Music, Indiana Jones, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks he was well-versed in the fear such a movement could cause. It caused great fear in him.

“They were people that had been taught to hate,” I said. “Dr. King taught them to dream and love.”

“I wonder why we didn’t talk about it at school,” he said as his voice drifted off in the direction of the open window, and his thoughts seemed to follow.

“People still need to dream,” he said.

His 8-year-old wisdom was deeper than anything I could offer, so we let it hang there in the air around us. The boys both pressed close against me with a tenderness they reserve for moments of quiet and reflection, and the moment became just that.

Then the youngest sang his song in careful whisper and the oldest sat still, his arms around his brother, his head upon my heart, and he listened.

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Photo by Emma Rödjer; drawings by the kindergarten class

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