Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Tag: GW Childs Elementary

Philadelphia Schools and Judas’ Kiss

meandmuralistsIt’s Maundy Thursday, I’ll spend the evening washing feet.  I spent the morning getting paint on my hands at GW Childs School.  The two go together for me.  Maundy is an old word that comes from the Latin mandatum which means “command or order.”  It refers to   the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples after washing their feet at the Last Supper, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.(John 13:34)

I went to GW Childs school because I am on the “For Love of Childs” Compassion team that my fried Megan started.  Circle of Hope organizes ourselves to fan the sparks of passion that our members have.  Bands of compassionate people get together to follow Jesus’ commandment.  For the Love of Childs has supported the Art Program, Hosted a Block Party, Started a Library, and planted Gardens in cooperation with various local partners.  I’m inspired to be part of some really good things that are happening.  As often as I am able and there is an opportunity, I am at Childs.  I joined the team to do the Maundy all the time.  I did it for more than filial duty though.  I did it because I need to do something personally to respond to the mess that those who run the school system in Philadelphia have made of these kids’ education.

And here is the other Maundy Thursday correlation.  I can’t hep but note the similarity between Jesus getting betrayed with a kiss by his once friend and disciple, Judas Iscariot, and the kids in Philadelphia getting betrayed by those entrusted with the job of educating them.  

The biggest Judas is probably Governor Tom Corbett (though that’s an over-simplification). Here are just a few reasons I am tempted to say that Satan has entered Tom Corbett (ref Luke 22:3) from

  • While Philadelphia schools are in a financial crisis created by the state, Pennsylvania is spending $400 million on building a new prison in Philadelphia.
  • When Mayor Nutter asked Pennsylvania for $130 million in additional state funding, Gov. Corbett delivered only $16 million
  • The impact fee for natural gas producers is the lowest in the nation. If Gov. Corbett modeled the West Virginia tax on fracking, $205 million in revenue could be generated.

This is a betrayal of our children.  The list on is a lot longer.  As I read it I started to tear up.  I cannot believe it.  Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest!  We’re building a pipeline from cradle to jail.  This is something to die for, certainly to suffer for.  Who’s with me?beautiful sky in philadelphia

It feels so horribly inadequate now, but I painted a mural with some 6th through 8th graders today on the roof top gym at GW Childs.  As we painted we talked about their families and what they liked to post on instagram.  I told them I liked to post pictures of the sky (I posted this one in their honor).  I also told them and their City Year mentors about Circle of Hope and the other Maundy things we do.  I’m praying that my little goes a long way in God’s hand.  I don’t have much more hope than that.


Helping kids find their voice with Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss was a prophet.  The Lorax is a creation care manifesto, The Butter Battle Book is a telling allegory of the cold war, The Sneetches is about racism, Horton Hatches an Egg tells the story of a nonviolent sit in.  I love Dr. Seuss.  So I jumped at the chance to participate in a Dr. Seuss Day this week.

G.W. Childs Elementary celebrated Dr. Seuss day with school wide readings of Horton Hears a Who.  The Neighborhood  Association started by my friend Megan, Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary (NICE), donated copies of the book to the school for the occasion.  Horton Hears a Who is prophetic too.  I wasn’t as familiar with it but after reading it three times to three different classes I am.  Horton hears the people of Who-ville that live on a tiny dust speck and goes through great lengths to protect them from a band of monkeys and sour kangaroo who don’t believe Who-ville exists.  The town of Who-ville is at the brink of destruction at the hands of its naysayers and they all have to make as much noise as possible in order to be heard by the weak eared kangaroos and monkeys.  They cannot be heard until the mayor discovers the smallest Who in Who-ville, a little boy named Jo-jo, shirking his noisemaking responsibility.  The mayor gets him to join his voice with the noise of the town and together they are finally heard.

ben dr. seuss dayWhat a great message to be sharing with children!  I was tasked with sharing this story with two eighth grade classes.  (I also had to wear this ridiculous hat.  The children’s book, the hat… it was a tall order.  Eighth graders are notorious.  But the kids really responded.  I got them to think about the people and the systems in their lives that refuse to acknowledge their existence.  We talked about city government, giant corporations, the prison industrial complex and more.  Horton’s refrain is “A person’s a person no matter how small.”  I convinced them that smallness wasn’t just about size but about power.  They had power together but they needed to be united to be heard by those trying to destroy them.

The sad truth of the matter is that the powers that be do not doubt these young people’s existence the way the monkeys and kangaroos of the Jungle of Nool do.  The powers know these people exist.  They market to them and they use them in their power consolidation.  The allegory breaks down a bit because the monkeys and kangaroos repent of their destructive direction as soon as they hear Jo-jo and the rest raise their voices together.  Our powers aren’t repenting.  Maybe because they know we don’t have enough power and maybe because they aren’t bothered very much by the relatively quiet ruckus some of us are causing.

Horton Hears a Who could be reduced to looking out for the little guy, but I think it’s more about the little guy finding a voice and using it for self preservation.  I’m praying some of those kids do, cause I’m going to shout with them.

Isaiah 58: 1 Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.