“The Pediatric Chaplains Network honors, includes, and advocates for all members and all persons served by our members. We uphold the inherent dignity of every human person. We embrace the unique gifts of all persons, individually and collectively, as they relate to identity, orientation, socio-economic status, accessibility, ethnicity, culture, ability, spirituality, and belief.”
–The PCN Statement on Diversity
To that end, we want to take this time to lift up our role and mission as a community of pediatric chaplains who strive to create safe and sacred spaces for all children and those who love them. Fred Rogers once said, “I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are, I think that’s the greatest evil.” We have witnessed this evil being perpetrated against individuals and entire people groups time and again through the media, in our civil governments, in our communities and in our institutions. Children see this happening and wonder what it means to live in a world where the adults they see around them do this to one another. Children question if the adults they see demeaning, disrespecting, ignoring, abusing, orhurting one another are going to do that to them, too. Our responsibility is to help children know who they truly are—human beings filled with love, who are loved equally for who they are, just as they are. And then to acknowledge that though all are equally precious, not all are equally treated. And we need to tell them why.
We, as pediatric chaplains can help children by creating spaces for them to ask difficult questions and being honest in our answers. We can model for them what it means to admit that we participate in the systemic racism that causes some people to feel less than who they are, even if we do so unknowingly. We must acknowledge and own our biases, conscious and unconscious, so that we can bring them to light and question our assumptions about others. We must model for children what it is that we as adults need to do in order to align with the anti-racist movement, and that means we must talk about the racism that exists in the world, in our communities, in our homes and in our own minds. We need to tell them that Black Lives Matter. We need to talk to them about the systemic racism and injustice that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) experience, and about white privilege. We need to open safe spaces to discuss the murder of George Floyd and so many others before and even since. We need to help them see beyond “us” and “them” and turn their focus to every “you” and every “me” that is equally deserving of love and respect.
Now more than ever, our call to support and nurture the inherent spirituality of every child is upon us, and we as a discipline are most responsible for answering this call. The inherent wisdom of our children is here to help and guide us. Sometimes, those who have the least amount of experience with precedents are those who can see most wisely and lovingly into the future. In times such as these, let us remember to honor and respect and lift their voices. They may lead the way to tomorrow, but they’ll need our examples, our honesty, our prayers, our respect, our advocacy, and our help. Help us to help them lead the way.