“How was your first day of middle school?” I asked. I’d been thinking about "firsts." They come and go in a breath. In minutes, days, years— in a lifetime.
First we are born. We've got our first moment out of the womb, our first pull of air into the lungs, first touch of our mother’s soft skin, first glimpse of light wrapping about our fingers. Then we have our first taste of milk, our first smell of lotion, powder, leaves. We have our first sensations of entering a home, breathing in the silk of a blanket, the freshness of sheets, of bed, of rest inside a warm place called ours.
Then there’s the first bath, the first roll in the grass, in the stroller staring up at the branches, the clouds, the blue ceiling of endless space. We have our first swing, first time our tummy tickles, our feet fly upward. We have our first pet, first word, first tooth, first kick, throw, first sentence, first friend, first book, first fight, first win, first loss.
Do you remember?
Everything, everyone must begin somewhere in this place made of dirt and pavement and and buildings, lakes and fields, forests, mountains and sky. Everyone must begin.
And so, if a child is blessed, the first day of school emerges. It’s the day of the little body under the backpack, the tiny calves in new socks, the clean hair, the big smile at the new teacher. It’s the day of the camera, the Facebook post, and all those tears.
The first day of school marks the time to step out the big door. Step into the loud playground and classroom, into gyms and principals offices and libraries. It’s time to put a pencil to paper, a crayon into space. It’s time to mold a new idea, a different question. It’s time to become the first to seek an unusual answer, a new way of drawing, of writing a story, of kicking a ball, of growing a plant. It’s time to become the first to raise a hand, to admit to a challenges, to accept defeat, to build a bridge, to forgive, to help somebody, to find God, to pry into the universe for the very first time, using absolutely everything a mind is capable of giving.
Think of all a child can do— for the very first time.
Think of all that a child can change if given the time, space, the tools, the safety, the freedom, the encouragement, the recognition that this very moment, and that one, and the next one is another “first.”
Think not just of the first day of school, of your child, of my child. But think of any old day, any time the sun lifts over the field. Think of any little girl or boy in this country or that one, with a lot of money, with a classroom, with books, or with absolutely none at all.
Think of the beautiful mind, the dream-filled soul who lives on our planet setting a hopeful foot down on the earth, who looks up at the stars and can imagine everything wonderfully good... Think of her, of him!
Think and pray and hope for every single child’s first day today and tomorrow. Think of every child's chance to learn, to live, to do something wonderful, to tilt our planet toward the light again and again and again...
Happy first day. Happy first day to you, to all children.