I am not a religious person. Every now and again, I am faced with the question “what do you believe“? It is not a difficult question to answer, though it could be for lots and lots of tricky reasons that people like to get mad or sad about. But this is not a post about labels or lack of belief.
In fact, it is about belief.
I believe in people. Sometimes that’s hard to hold firm and to affirm. I believe and know that people are good. Some days my faith in people is shaken, because I also believe and know that people can be bad. On those days, if you were to ask me what I believe in, I would say that I always, always, aways believe in kids. Always. That is one reason I teach, because above all else, I will always believe in my kids, your kids, the kids in the one room school-house, the kids who skip school, the hand raisers, the grade skippers, the ones who hate to read. I will always believe in them.
You probably think I am crazy. Kids? Middle schoolers? You rest your belief in something five foot two that hasn’t discovered deodorant yet? you ask. Yes. Yes, I do, and let me tell you why.
I believe in their potential to change the world in small, everyday ways. I believe that they will discover things that will change they way we live, save lives, encourage one another, change systems that are broken, and stand up for what a generation before them could not, tried to but failed to. I believe in them because the world hasn’t had the chance to try and turn them into “people” and they have yet to make choices that might weigh them down or might, someday, shake my faith in humanity.
I believe in them because when I teach, I see them thinking, creating, and wondering and they are so brilliant it makes me want to cry and hug them and shake them by their shoulders and tell them that the world is theirs, do good, work hard, you are my hopes and my dreams. And they are. They give me hope, especially when I start to lose my faith in the rest of the people.
They give me hope because they wave hello, they open doors for one another, they say thank you, or they don’t, but I catch the gratitude in some other way on some other day. They give me hope when they make me laugh, and even when they test my patience, when they talk too much or throw a standing ovation temper tantrum at 12 because I think, this is just the beginning, and you have so much more to give.
They give me hope when they are kind, as no one else but a child can be, when they put a hand on a friend’s shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy, you look down today. Are you doing ok?”
How can you not believe in the potential of people when you see that a foot in front of you?
So, I believe in kids and because of them, I believe in people and all of the goodness that they can do. And some day they’ll figure out the deodorant thing, I know it.