What is the most Important question someone ever asked you? Or short of that, what is the question someone asked you that changed the direction of your life?
One of the questions I continue to return to comes from poet, novelist, and womanist, Alice Walker. She says “The most important question in the world is, ‘Why is the child crying?’”
When I first read this in the 1990s, it grabbed me. And I remember sharing it with someone important in my life, a person who was a parent. And they told me, You really should not ask that question. It’s probably none of your business. I disagreed with them then, and I disagree now.
Just because we ask the question does not always mean we must intervene or give advice. The question is much larger. Asking it puts us in a frame of understanding what is happening with the most vulnerable people in our world, children.
This week I want to tell you about someone who’s been asking the most significant questions about children for more than six decades. Marian Wright Edelman is our featured author this week. With delight, I get to be in her orbit of ideas and questions this very week. I’m anticipating an annual gathering with much joy. You can be part of that conversation if you like. Miraculously the Children’s Defense Fund’s Proctor Institute is free this year in a virtual format
Asking good questions has been part of my vocational life for as long as I can remember. Cultivating questions is one of my superpowers. More than once, I’ve been introduced as a person who is unafraid of asking tough questions. My students also know how much I love questions. And this week’s episode of Three Minute Ministry Mentor, and chapter 33, of my new book Pastoral Imagination are all about cultivating good questions.
In the video (below) you can learn about Pastor Greg and his interaction with a seminary professor who advised him “to cultivate good ministry questions.” The resource I recommend in the video is a personal journal. Your journal. Are you a journal keeper? I am. Since seminary.
Questions fill my journals. And I think questions are important for our learning and reflection and the deepening of pastoral imagination.
In fact, I think they are so important, that we pulled every question from the new book and created a journal. For you.
The Pastoral Imagination Journal is a beautiful full color experience of posing questions for your practice ministry and giving you space to respond. The watercolor pallet on each page is from the hand of artist Amber Simpson. The journal comes in both print and a unique electronic format. Because we know the world is changing, we want you to have a journal available on your tablet or desktop. It might be just as important to you as having a paper book in which you write with a pen. Either way the Pastoral Imagination Journal is ready for you and your reflections!
Here is a sample of Pastoral Imagination Journal for you. The PDF will automatically download.
Watch this week’s video about Cultivating Questions
More on Cultivating Questions | video | blog | podcast
You can also read an excerpt of chapter 33 “Cultivating Questions” over at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.
Learning in practice with Marian Wright Edelman
This week I am excited to engage in the ongoing legacy of profound and important questions asked by Dr. Marian Wright Edelman. It is my joy to take students to the Proctor Institute and the Dale Andrews Freedom Seminary for a week of intensive learning, singing, preaching, and conversations about the sacrality of every child.
Marian Wright Edelman was the first Black woman admitted to Bar Association in Mississippi in 1964. She became an advocate, civil rights lawyer, and voice for children and impoverished families in the U.S. Edelman was the policy director for the Poor People’s campaign founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. She founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. In fact, she sees CDF as an offspring of the Poor People’s Campaign. She is also the initiator of the annual Children’s Sabbath, advocate for children and families, and the asker of great questions.
In her 1999 book, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, Edelman presents 25 lessons about mentors and by mentors in her life. She wrote this book for her own children, sharing the wisdom she has earned in her decades of living a vocation devoted to children. Her lesson number 10 embraces the wisdom of cultivating questions.
“Asking the right questions and measuring the right things may be more important than finding the right answers.” -Marian Wright Edelman
Learn more about the legacy of Marian Wright Edelman
The Child Tax Credit
This week one of the long standing policies for which CDF has been advocating came to fruition. Now part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), the Child Tax Credit puts funds into the hands of families who need to feed, clothe, educate and protect their children. This year has been hard, and families need support more than ever. You can calculate what the tax credit might mean for your family here.
I was deeply surprised to check my bank account and see there on my phone that I as a parent had received deposit on Friday, July 16. Here’s the truth. My child’s basic needs are all met. She lacks for no material goods. However, she is not my only responsibility.
You see, I am still asking why children are crying. Why are they crying at the border? In the city streets where they are being shot? In dangerous situations at home? And yes, they are still crying out in hunger. I celebrate the opportunity to put funds into the hands of families who need them to better care for their children. To direct rescue funds from this pandemic year into the hands of families who can use the CTC in ways their children need.
The C H A L L E N G E
So I am challenging the parents who already have the means at their disposal to meet basic needs for their children, to pay it forward. Those of us who call ourselves progressive and care for the well-being of all children, have a moral obligation to give from our abundance to the needs of families and children who’ve been marginalized for generations. Black and brown children are unfairly marginalized in multiple ways in this country. All poor children have a hard time getting a fair start in life. The CTC is both policy and funding to advance racial equality and end child poverty. Channeling our funds to organizations that advocate for these children is the right step to take.
My first donation to pay it forward was to the Children’s Defense Fund. I do not share this to impress you. I share it to challenge you, to invite you, and to join hands with you, as we continue to work for a better world for all children. And I urge you to see the sacrality of each child and advocate for their well-being in every realm of life. To end the cradle to prison pipeline. Take children out of cages on the border and in detention centers. Feed the children. Educate them. Love them, body, mind, and spirit. Provide for their basic needs. There are many good organizations, great organizations, doing excellent work. I hope you will choose one close to your community and your heart and pay it forward.
Will you join me?