I awoke at 4 am on Sunday morning to fly home to California. I had been in Pennsylvania, attending the West Chester Poetry Conference, and was leaving the company of some of the greatest living poets to catch my son's baseball team play in their league championship. At the airport, I read from a few favorite collections by Wendy Cope and Dana Gioia, and newer works from A.E. Stallings, Rhina Espaillat, and Chelsea Rathburn. As I turned the pages, I began to wonder about the way these poems will affect my son when he starts to read them in earnest. He will have his own joy and sadness, his own memories and dreams to act as counterpoint and compass through these worlds of words. I suppose I am excited for all that life has in store for him, but still I worry. For me to sit in a quiet airport crying seems no great matter -- sorrows, whether large or small, can be blessings, as many poems reveal. Yet, every parent wants to protect.
My son's sense of place in this world will be shaped not only by me, but by relatives, teachers, coaches, friends, mentors, and his own children, one day. If I could ask one thing of this expanding family circle, it would be that we all work together to grow his goodness. There is so much in life that cannot be predicted or altered, but we can control our own actions, our voices, and our behavior towards others. For the children that you have and for those you know, be a role model - be even better than you thought you could. They need you. Don't disappoint them. Teach them how to treat others, how they should expect to be treated, and encourage them to grow goodness in themselves. For all the kids who have the right kind of strength around them and for the ones that don't, declare your respect. Share your kindness. Be good. http://pledge.giverespect.org/