Sometimes we sit in circles with these questions–
What are you afraid of?
Who are your heroes and why?
What do you do in your free time that really makes you free?
My students answer–
I have no free time. It is all full of work, then I take care of my little sister.
My hero is my brother because he walks me home so the bullies don’t get me.
Sometimes I am afraid my mother will work so hard she will die.
They are ten, maybe eleven.
I cannot follow them home
and fix it so their parents can
take their books and burdens
for an hour a day
so they can go be children again.
I can listen when they speak.
I can turn their heads towards the sunrise,
then to the dragonflies hatching by the creek.
I can hold their packs while they run shouting
towards an ocean they have never seen.
I can dump the watering can on their heads on the hottest day of the year.
I can honor their courage, and their joy.
I cannot change the world they are living into,
but I can change the world they live in
for the tremor of a moment,
the same way we all can for each other with a
small smile or knowing sigh
and the fierce act of living in the world with an open heart.
originally published in the English Leadership Quarterly