Going back to school can be a test of ethical and moral lessons children have learned from their parents and in their houses of worship. This week’s clergy discuss how those teachings might be put into practice with teachers and fellow classmates.
The Rev. Prabhu Sigamani
Minister, Congregational United Church of Christ of Farmingville
One of the most important lessons a child can take to school is found in Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” As an example of this kind of love, there is the story of a little girl who asked her parents to shave her head because she could then closely resemble her friend, who had lost her hair to chemotherapy.
Talking about religion can be hard, sharing your faith may be delicate and attempting to explain about God can be complex. However, our actions point to what we believe. Carry your bags with books and supplies but also pack some love in your hearts. Humility and gentleness are the ways love shows up. Love knows how to respect everyone. It topples all differences because the only way we can show regard to others is by seeing them through the love we have within.
Patience has power to cross boundaries and creates a safer world; let it begin with you. Delight in the success of your friends and be compassionate to those who need your help. It can start with a small act of kindness by calling grandparents to say hello, complimenting a friend, or saying something nice to your teacher. As the saying goes, “today’s children are tomorrow’s future,” but the future begins today and with you; may it be filled with humility, gentleness and patience paving ways for love to blossom. The unseen God can be experienced and exposed through your love, as God is love.
Rabbi Motti Grossbaum
Chabad Jewish Center, Stony Brook
It’s back-to-school season — and parents around the region are breathing a little easier. Their kids will be back in a structured, educational setting and there are fewer hours in the day to fill. But the question is, are we really educating our children? If you expect the school system to educate your child, then the answer is simple: Your child is not being educated. Yes, the school system does, by and large, teach our children information — they learn some history, science, math and the like. But that’s just information, not education. Education is teaching children the difference between right and wrong (and yes, some things are wrong). Education is about teaching children moral values. And education is about teaching children that there is a creator, a higher being — some call it God — that they are accountable to. Education means teaching children that there is “an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1). It’s not about making grades or advancing a year — that simply measures their retention of the information they were taught.
Schools may provide students with useful information, they may even one day use this information in their careers. But parents need to educate their children. Education provides children with the essential tools for life. Education ensures that children are raised to care about others, not only themselves. Education gives children the ability to overcome the life challenges they’ll inevitably face. With the beginning of the school year, it’s an opportune time for parents to consider what they are doing to educate their children. If not now, when?
The Rev. Gary Schulz
Pastor, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bellerose
Whether you are a first-grader or a senior, entering a new school or one you have attended for years, whether you will struggle to maintain good grades or will be taking AP classes, you will be part of a community. Our faith reminds us that we are to love our neighbor and that everyone we will meet on that first day of school is our neighbor. How we see the people we meet in school — from old friends to new students, from teachers and principals to janitors and crossing guards — reflects on how we live our faith, a faith that sees everyone as loved by God and therefore worthy of our love also.
We are reminded of what our faith asks us to be for others — not just the popular kids, the smart kids, the rich kids — but all those we meet. Giving of ourselves so that we can make our school a better place to learn and succeed. The first-grader who says good morning to her teacher, the fifth-grader who makes sure the new student feels welcome, the sophomore that tutors a freshman and the senior who thanks his teachers for mentoring him are the beginnings of what it means to live one’s faith both in school and in the world around us. The students that begin school this fall instilled with the understanding that everyone they meet is a child of God and worthy of respect, will succeed in the most important way. They will have learned how to love and to be loved.