School starts back soon, and my friend Molly Wright visited Stephanie and I in Boone this week. She has been a dear friend of mine since high school, when she was the cool senior who gave me (the lowly freshman) rides home in her Jeep Cherokee, all while listening to the coolest music I have ever heard. We reminisced about times gone by and looked to the future: Molly is a teacher, a graduate of North Carolina State University and has enrolled in Harvard University’s extension master’s program in education.
I asked her why she was doing this program and why it mattered now. She said in sure and certain terms that the children she was teaching needed a chance and attention that people are neglecting to give them. She believes, as many educators do, that she can make a difference in young people’s lives just like people like Wanda McConnell did for us when we were in high school English class at Statesville High School. But that answer, for me at least, made education a faith issue.
Now mind you, I am not advocating prayer in schools or the implementation of religious education, that is the job of families and churches. What I am saying is that people of faith in Statesville should be deeply concerned with the education our students are getting in our community. This call to action comes just weeks after a young person was shot down in our community, and it begs the question: What more can we do with our systems and institutions so something like this never, ever happens again?
The reality is that if we’re going to change this old world, we must do it through institutions and systems that have worked in the past but may need tweaking now. We must be like my friend Molly and engage in the hard work of reconciliation and education for the sake of our future. If we’re willing to be people who do this together, there is nothing that can stop Statesville.
To all the educators out there, from Molly Wright to Wanda McConnell, you are valued and you are cherished. You have made a difference and continue to do so by your presence in the lives of our young people. You change the course of our collective history by your actions, and I can promise my prayers go with you. I challenge my readers to pray the same prayer I am praying, I have included it below. May God help us to educate and to reconcile, for in those two words we see our future.
Almighty God, in your ever-renewing love for us, you gave us educators and teachers. Grant that in your gracious hope for our lives together your teachers may be renewed in strength and reconciliation toward the students in our community. May we see the dawn of a new tomorrow in our education system. For the sake of your name, we pray. Amen.
Rev. Rob Lee is an author, pastor and Statesville native. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @roblee4.