“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
The month of May celebrates the children in our midst. Child Month, as it is known, aims to highlight issues surrounding children. It is an opportunity for society to pay closer attention to our young people and seek to understand the many issues that impact them in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world.
I found the poem, quoted above, by Kahlil Gibran, world-renowned Lebanese-American poet, to be as relevant today as it was when it was written in the early 20th Century. It is a deep, insightful and thought-provoking piece on children and how we as adults should view their reality. Most parents or guardians do their utmost to ensure the best for the children in their care. The poet recognizes the fact that some parents may want to mould the child in their own image but the reality is that children have minds of their own.
On the other hand, the poet also recognizes that parents, and perhaps adults as a whole, have a role in directing and guiding the children to the right path and courses of action. As Gibran says so eloquently: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
If we, as adults, are the bows and our children the arrows, then we must do our very best to point those arrows in the right direction. We must also ensure that we create the environment suitable for that arrow to manage the several challenges that will happen when that arrow is in flight to its intended target. This brings me to another very impactful piece written by L.R. Knost:
“One day, we will be only whispers in our children’s minds, our voices guiding, encouraging or criticizing, condemning. One day, we will be only memories in our children’s hearts, remembered laughter and love or pain and conflict. One day, we will be only footprints on our children’s souls, leaving a trail of light to illuminate their way or a gorge of sharp-edged rocks for them to stumble through in the dark. We give our children wings to soar or wounds to heal every day by how we live, how we love, how we speak. What legacy do you want to leave, my friends, and what are you doing to turn that dream into your children’s reality?”
The world we want for our children when they become adults is the world we make today. If we create a toxic environment and place for our children to grow up in, then what do we expect to have as the end result? Toxicity poisons everything – the body, the mind, the character and the soul. Knost is asking what memories do we leave with our children – love and joy or pain and sadness? It doesn’t take wealth to create a space or climate of peace, happiness and fulfilment. I agree that material things can make life more comfortable but ultimately they aren’t and mustn’t be seen as the source of love or joy.
Knost couldn’t be more real when she points outs: “We give our children wings to soar or wounds to heal every day by how we live, how we love, how we speak.” These words should become like mantras which we repeat to ourselves as parents, guardians, teachers or just adults every day.
I had the opportunity to visit the Gordon Walters Primary School recently. It was the first time I visited the school and really didn’t know much about it or where it was located. I was there as part of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados and representative of the Barbados Muslim Association to gift a water-fountain to the school. This school is considered one of the model schools in the Foundation’s campaign to ensure healthier lifestyles for the country’s children.
The word ‘model’ is an understatement to describe this school. I was overwhelmed by what I witnessed with the children, teachers and Principal at this institution of learning. I can’t put into words the excitement I feel knowing that some of our nation’s children are in the hands of such a wonderful team.
While our mission there was dealing with healthy alternatives, this school, under what I consider to be the very capable leadership of its Principal, has for some years implemented rules that ensure the children in their care are given those alternatives. The sale of sugary sweetened beverages are banned from sale on the compound, so too are those snacks that have unhealthy ingredients. This, in my mind, is revolutionary. But even further, children at the assembly had with them their own bottles of water. They are encouraged and motivated to drink water regularly rather than a soft drink to hydrate themselves. The school has created a culture of drinking water and seeks to remove the addiction to sugary beverages which so many of us have very unfortunately cultivated over years.
And that is not all, I learnt that they have a very active agricultural science program for the students; a program that I recognize the teachers themselves are passionate about. From that early age they are instilling the recognition of growing what you eat and enjoying wholesome foods.
In this Child Month, I commend the Gordon Walters School, its students, Principal, teachers, and staff. They recognize that they are, as Gibran stated, “the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
I also take this opportunity to commend the ten outstanding teachers who were recently awarded the Royal Fidelity National Distinguished Teachers’ Awards for 2018. Teachers like these, as Knost pointed out: “Will be only footprints on our children’s souls, leaving a trail of light to illuminate their way”.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: [email protected])