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Essay By Elizabeth Brooks: "Celebrating Life and Human Dignity: A Call to Love"



At the Core

My first impression in the parking lot was a sense of being on foreign turf. I don’t even live near a school. I see kids in clusters, groups of 4 or 6 when they are getting off the school bus in my neighborhood. But here I was on a school campus without a vision of walking on campus. There were many groups visible, sprinkled and peppered, all engaged. That was a challenge for me. They were active in small groups buzzing. I had stepped into a hive, a hive of children, full of energy. I did not feel intimidated but I noticed I had a mouth wide-opened, awkward smile. I was out of my comfort zone. Go forward, I whispered to myself. I took a deep breath and my own counsel and I blessed every child I looked upon. And I began to experience their joy and their energy, their optimism, their grace. This was not about me.

I spent all day at the school. On arrival at 8:45 am, I obtained a visitor’s pass at the main office. As I proceeded toward the classrooms, I met the teacher who was expecting me. The bell rang and I grabbed his hand when he approached me and we charged across the student’s path, amidst their laughter, energy, agility and bravado.

This was a defining moment, life changing for me. I had the privilege of performing poetry for over 150 beautiful middle- school students, in the media center of a public school in Tampa. We celebrated God “If I were God,” children “Call of the Child,” women “You May Applaud Now, ” diversity “Look at Me” and our country in that order, with “Cry Out “ and “Oh Freedom”.

The kids were receptive, none were disruptive but some as expected were restless. Others participated well and even had a variety of questions for me. A couple of students asked to see my notebook, which was lying on the table unopened. I was reading from my newly published chapbook, “You May Applaud Now and other poems”, (see book review on a couple of print outs and reciting from my heart. These students were ripe with wonder. I carried my notebook with me so I could take notes but never opened it to do so. The students were very insightful. They wanted to see the trigger, the secret, the process, the birth of my poems. I let them. But this was a brand new notebook which had hatched only one poem. I explained to them that the words encircled on the margin and elsewhere were thoughts that came while I was writing, being in the flow. “It can look messy but I like to call it bubbly. These bubbles are fun and give meaning to more ideas.” One of the students, a boy asked me if he could read the poem “Somehow” from my published book. I was ecstatic and he read the poem to great applause.

Some of the children asked me “who is your favorite poet?“ “what is your favorite poem?” Both boys and girls wanted to know what inspired me to write about certain subjects. I explained to them that sometimes when I pick up my pen to write I have no idea what I will write about, except it seems like I just have to do so. I feel compelled. Sometimes the poem writes itself. I further added that I write about something I like, something I love, remembered or I am upset about.

My day was a beautiful whirlwind. It was filled with honesty, acceptance and trust. I walked towards my car at approximately 2:50 pm FEELING BLESSED AND TRULY FULFILLED. One teacher told me, “You are a blessing to these children today.” But it was not me, the room was filled with His presence and we were all blessed. We can never give up on children. I did not think that I had material for middle- school students but I was led there. I approached (who I thought was) the Principal and I told him April was National Poetry Month and I am a poet (bold claim) and I would love to come to his school to read poetry. I had intended to read poetry to two classes, probably. Well, the teachers were too busy in April but I had a week’s notice to spend the day with them in May. “Spend the day?” I shrieked internally, that was not my intention. I agreed to stay until 2:00pm, not 3:00pm. Two days later, I called the teacher to confirm but in reality to find out what was his expectation. I mentioned to him then, that I do not teach but I read poetry. He told me that the principal had informed him that I wanted to read poetry and they were all excited. None of them had ever heard about me or read my work.

There is some kind of magnetism. I am riding a wave that I cannot explain. Yes I can. It is the Holy Spirit inspiring me, leading me, guiding me and staying with me. The sessions flowed. It is a day that cannot be duplicated without His presence. These children grounded my faith, strengthened my hope in knowing that they can be entrusted with our future. We must have faith to always inspire them, to celebrate them, and to bless them. If we do, and we bring them something old in a different package they would Step UP and rise to the occasion. Our job is to present them with opportunities filled with truth, love, acceptance and sincerity, as we share our gifts.

The students talked about their favorites of the day. It surprised me that some of the boys shared that the poem “You May Applaud Now,” celebrating women was their favorite. At least two children voiced “If I were God” was their favorite. This was awe-inspiring, a jaw dropping event. I am indeed very grateful. I got to spend that day with a beautiful group of students and educators who are hopeful with an inclusive spirit.

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