Today was the funeral Mass for Mary Enyonam Xatse, and I will miss her.
Mary's husband and mine went through the Worcester Roman Catholic diocese deaconal training program together, and so we were essentially classmates.
Whenever Mary would see me somewhere, after she gave me a hug, she would draw back, take my arm, look me in the eye, and ask, "And how are the girls." It always seemed like a statement rather than a question, but one never spoke of anything else with Mary until how the children were had been established.
I was thinking of this today at her funeral mass, as the considerations of the week weigh (as they do for so many) heavily on my mind.
The story of the traditional greeting of the Masai being "and how are the children?" of course rings in my head (it's not clear this means quite what it's been presented as, incidentally), and I am hardly the first to observe that the one thing that the United States has not done during this is put the needs of our children first.
I was asked yesterday if parents were right to feel angry; not only are they, but students and educators, and frankly all of us should, too.
But we should be angry not at our local school committees (even mine!), but at the leadership lacks at other levels. Yesterday's example was a scolding by Governor Baker here in Massachusetts, at the same press conference at which he both was telling folks not to have family pool parties but was refusing to roll back business openings, and was announcing that the state's major response to the higher rates was, as best as I can understand, increased policing.
We do not have widespread testing.
We do not have widespread contact tracing.
There is no statewide standards on rolling back reopening schools should we get there.
I've proposed some things he could do that would actually be useful, instead of the weekly edition of the Commissioner scares the superintendents on one of their phone calls that he'll take away district funding or cut sports for remote learning and we all have to spend the rest of the week chasing that down. This is not a good use of our time and energy.
And that goes double for the federal government, about which I highly recommend this Atlantic piece.
If the children are the priority, that means we don't take lightly what the past number of months have done to children with special needs, or to children's mental health, or to childhood hunger, or to children's wellbeing. It also means we recognize the disease's actual impacts on them, including the racial disparities within that. It even means recognizing that not having school as we have had has been good for some children.
The operations of districts are underfunded, the capital needs of districts have been underresourced for generations, and, on the federal level, it looks like funding may be falling apart.
These aren't the actions of a federal and state government that prioritizes children's well being.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.