When I was in seminary, I was inspired by liberative forms of Christian education found in activist and movement ministries. Paulo Freire’s books Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Hope renewed my passion in the power of the Holy Spirit’s movement outside of hierarchy and institution. I wanted to make this spiritual formation easier for churches to put into action, so, with two of my dearest friends, we created Deep Blue Life.
We put together a list of saints, conventional and unconventional alike, and let their stories open up opportunities for children and their caregivers to reimagine what following Jesus looks like. It’s not rote memorization (though Scripture forms us and having it to draw on in difficult times is a true gift), perfect attendance in Sunday school, or holding your arms up during worship to show you love the Lord. It’s creating more space for all people and all life to live life abundantly.
One of the saints we created a session around is Ruby Bridges. During the writing process, we found a video on YouTube of Robert Coles (there is footage in this video of white people using the n-word) talking about his time listening and learning from Ruby. Everyday Ruby walked through mobs of angry white people yelling racial slurs, yelling pure evil, at her as she walked into kindergarten. Everyday, she bravely face this abuse.
One day, Ruby’s teacher saw her stop and look at the crowd. Her teacher saw her mouth moving. She asked Ruby what she was saying to the mob. Ruby told her that she wasn’t talking to the crowd, she was praying to God. When she was asked what she was saying to God, she told her teacher that she was praying for each of the people in the crowd because even though what the crowd was doing was bad, she wanted God to forgive them since they didn’t know what they were doing.
I am amazed at Ruby’s compassion for these adults who saw her, a small six year old girl, as an enemy. As I think about what it means to raise Rowan to be a good person being compassionate to all is at the top of my list. We have so much to learn from Ruby.
If you’d like to share the story of Ruby with your children, you can watch The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles read by The Teacher’s Library on YouTube.