It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
Kids don’t have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don’t have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns of the Northeast. Why? Because we organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. Kids ought to know that. That’s why I sing these songs. That’s why I tell these stories, dammit! No root, no fruit!
You can understand and relate to most people better if you look at them — no matter how old or impressive they may be — as if they are children. For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much — we simply grow taller. O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.
Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?
I cannot go to school today” Said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps, A gash, a rash and purple bumps. My mouth is wet, my throat is dry. I’m going blind in my right eye. My tonsils are as big as rocks, I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox. And there’s one more – that’s seventeen, And don’t you think my face looks green? My leg is cut, my eyes are blue, It might be the instamatic flu. I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke, I’m sure that my left leg is broke. My hip hurts when I move my chin, My belly button’s caving in. My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained, My ‘pendix pains each time it rains. My toes are cold, my toes are numb, I have a sliver in my thumb. My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak. My tongue is filling up my mouth, I think my hair is falling out. My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight, My temperature is one-o-eight. My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, There’s a hole inside my ear. I have a hangnail, and my heart is … What? What’s that? What’s that you say? You say today is ………….. Saturday? G’bye, I’m going out to play!
I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused — a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love — then we wish for knowledge about the subject of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.