Courage Doesn’t Always Roar – Why We Bless the Backpacks
Leah | Sep 28, 2017

Religious Exploration What Does it Mean To Be A People of Courage?

“Courage doesn’t always roar.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

From Soul Matters: Courageous people change the world. There are so many examples of that this month. October is LGBTQ history month and reminds us of the many who bravely moved (and continue to move) our world toward greater acceptance and affirmation. The revolutionary prophet of peace, Mohandas Gandhi, was born on October 2. Our Christian friends celebrate Reformation Day and Martin Luther’s courage that changed how we all think about religious authority. We rightly honor such giants. The problem is most of us aren’t that tall. Or are we? Here’s what we have to help each other remember: In addition to the heroic acts that alter history, there are also the daily choices that prevent history from altering us. Battling evil and bending the arc of the universe toward justice deserves praise, but there’s also the ordinary work of integrity and not allowing yourself to be bent. This needs to be noticed as well. There’s the bravery of embracing your beauty even when it doesn’t fit the air-brushed images surrounding you. There’s the courage of calling out the micro-aggressions that happen almost every day at work. And what about resisting the persistent seduction of status and stuff? The list is long: Turning down that drink one day at a time. Making yourself get out of bed when the depression tells you to stay there. Holding your partner’s hand in public. Make no mistake, there are dozens of ordinary acts of bravery we rise up to everyday!

Our children need our help as they negotiate some of those same pressures as well as other pressures that are unique to the realms in which they move. Children as young as pre-schoolers can be made to feel they don’t have the right body type, hair, skin, or facial features. These pressures come from  their peers and by the media and by adults around them. They see acts of bullying; they have been the object of bullying , or have bullied themselves, either unintentionally or in moments when they were not acting as their best selves. Children, ‘tweens and teens feel pressure to wear the right clothes and have the right things.

Parents and caregivers and our UU community can give our children and youth a lens to notice where love is missing in their experiences; and an internal moral compass to guide them to act for love and justice.

In our October Family Chapel this month, we’ll be joining more and more Unitarian Universalist congregations by holding a backpack blessing at the beginning of the school and congregational year: On Oct 1, children in Pre-k through sixth grade are invited to bring their school backpack, or sports bag or instrument case to the Sanctuary.  I’ll lead a ceremony so that other adults and I can “bless” the children and their bags. The children also receive a small token (like a special talisman) to clip to their bag as a reminder to strive to be faithful Unitarian Universalists wherever they go and to know that our adult community and their peers support them.

I use the word “bless” to make this moment sacred – special. It  lifts up our Unitarian Universalist values in a way set apart from the mundane. Yes, we wish for the children to benefit from this year in school AND we wish for them to head the call to respond morally and ethically -ways in which success cannot be measured.

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”

David W. Orr, Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World

In faithful service,