Max and jake en route to the white house

Max and jake en route to the white house

When I am called to account for my success or failure as a mother, there are only three things that will matter to me:

  1. Is my son a kind and compassionate person?  Does he treat all human beings with respect and gentleness regardless of their skin color, gender, economic status, nationality? 
  2. Is my son comfortable in his own skin?  Is he comfortable with the full range of his emotions?  Does he value himself and honor his own feelings?
  3. Does my son stand up for what he believes in, even when it is hard?  Will he confront authority in the face of injustice? Will he stand for others?

Today was one of those wonderful days when we had a chance to practice all three things. 

Nine million children without health insurance

Nine million children without health insurance

It is hard for me to believe that in this country, the wealthiest and most prosperous land in the world, there are 9,000,000–nine million–children who do not have access to healthcare.  Children who have to forgoe medicines, children who will die because simple illness goes untreated.  And it angers me that President George W Bush, a man who calls himself  compassionate, has decided to veto a bill that will fund the expansion of health insurance for children.  He will veto that bill, all the while asking for more and more money to fund a war in Iraq, a war that has been mismanaged and has lead to the deaths of so many, including many innocent children.  While I love my country and am grateful for the freedom to speak my mind in this land, sometimes when I consider these policies I just want to hang my head in shame.

Along with Andy Stern and Dennis Rivera, Max and a handful of other children delivered petitions with some one million signatures to the White House.  The petitions, collected by health care workers all over the country, asked President Bush NOT to veto this bill supported by Democrats and Republicans alike and to fully fund a program that will make it possible for so many children to live healthier lives.

On Friday, Max was invited to participate in this action.  Although I was tempted to just sign him up based on my own values, I decided to leave it up to him.  I explained to him the situation and asked him if he wanted to participate.  He was thoughtful, considered what he would miss in school and the friends he wanted to play with.  But then he said, “Yes mommy.  I want to fight for healthcare for kids–and I want to tell President Bush to end the war.”  If that was not enough, he then completely independently convinced two more friends to join him.

Max and jake

Max and jake

And so today we headed downtown into Washington DC for an adventure.  The children pulled red wagons filled to overflowing with mailbags stuffed with petitions.  They pulled them down the street to the park in front of the White House while strangers looked on and while some grown-ups even jeered at them.  They kept going, even though it was hot and scary, even though strange reporters were in their faces with cameras and microphones.  Even though the wagons were heavy and hurt their hands. 

The stood in the hot hot sun with Congressman John Dingell and Senator Ted Kennedy.  And then they held hands and crossed the street and piled the petitions at the gate in front of the White House.  They chanted and shouted and stood up against the injustice of little children left to suffer and even maybe die in the wealthiest country in the world. 

Tired kids at press conference

Tired kids at press conference

After it was all over Max and his friends were exhausted, grouchy and spent. “I am sad” he confessed to me.  But tonight when I asked him how he felt about the day, he said he felt good.  He was glad that he did what he could to help kids who can’t see the doctor.  He was glad he got to yell against a war that confuses and scares him and he was glad that he got to help stand up for the kids who couldn’t be there today.  I asked him if he would do it again, even though he felt tired and his hand hurt.

He looked at me with a startled expression:  “Of course” he said than turned back to his game.

I have seen the future.  It looks very bright indeed.

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