If you’ve ever heard Steve Earle’s song “Nothing but a Child,” chances are it was around Christmas time. That’s understandable given the song’s storyline based on the birth of Christ. It kicks off with the wise men who “saw a sign and set out across the sand.” Traveling “day and night,”
They chased a brand new star, ever towards the west
Across the mountains far, but when it came to rest
They scarce believed their eyes, they’d come so many miles
And the miracle they prized was nothing but a child
“Nothing but a child.” How many times have we all felt that this week?
I once heard Earle sing this song at a benefit for the homeless. In his characteristic fashion, he challenged the crowd to examine its beliefs, saying something to the effect of: “Now maybe you believe that anyone who is homeless has only him/herself to blame… Then again, maybe you believe there is something terribly wrong with a society that would permit such poverty… But no matter what you believe, there ain’t no way you can blame it on the kids… And this song is for homeless kids the world over.”
Our country is now deeply engaged in trying to make sense of the Newtown tragedy. As the issues heat up – gun control, mental health, media portrayal of violence, school security, special education – we might do well to remember that no matter our views on these issues, ain’t no way we can blame it on the kids. In fact, the kids are what may bring us together. As Earle sings:
Nothing but a child could wash these tears away
Or guide a weary world into the light of day
President Obama brought this home when he spoke to the world from a school stage in Newtown on Sunday (12/16/12) night. His role call of first-names-only was a truly poignant conclusion.
Sitting there listening to those names wash over me – “Chase… Jesse… James… Grace” – I couldn’t help but think of other kids I know and have known with those same names. Then I realized that there are kids with those names at Hyde right now. President Obama’s words helped renew my own commitment to my own life’s work on behalf of kids. They reminded me of the greatness inherent in all kids. As Steve Earle concludes,
Now all around the world, in every little town
Every day is heard a precious little sound
And every mother kind and every father proud
Looks down in awe to find another chance allowed
When you boil it all down, that’s what kids are: “another chance allowed.” Here’s to all of us at Hyde joining together to make the most of that chance in the days ahead.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld