Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Preserving children’s open hearts

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published February 23, 2017  | En Español

I’ve never made any secret of my sheer delight whenever my ministry brings me into personal contact with our kids. Those wonderful encounters are life-giving for me. They make all of the challenges that I might have to face worthwhile.

African American History Month usually brings me several such happy opportunities as I become “Exhibit A” for some youngster’s school project. This year I was happy to be interviewed by a third- and a fourth-grader as the subject of their class projects. One was from St. Thomas More School and the other was from Fernbank School. Both were charming events.

Each of these youngsters had selected me as a “famous” African-American whom they wanted to interview. Their questions revealed their innocence and the wonderful spirit of openness that belongs to kids. These youngsters are learning the importance of loving and respecting people without any predetermined restrictions imposed by race, culture or background. These children are hopeful signs for me that tomorrow’s world will be a little bit better than the world in which we live today. May God continue to fill their hearts with an unsullied openness toward all other people.

After I had answered their questions, I began to wonder to whom they might turn for answers to the even more pressing life questions that lie ahead of them. Who will help them to comprehend the violence that too often saturates the media, describing the hatred that still disconnects people because of racial, religious or ethnic differences? It will be the ongoing responsibility of their parents and relatives to help them remain open and accepting of personal human differences without feeling threatened or frightened by those differences. It is also an important responsibility of our Church to help form these young souls to be able to recognize Christ in other people.

Who will explain to them the reasons behind many of the popular slogans that flood today’s media? It would never occur to these two wonderful little ones at this time that black lives didn’t matter along with every other human life. Yet as they grow older and begin to face the challenges of the world in which we live, they will need to understand that hatred and sin sometimes do make some people say and do awful things. How can we help them to preserve that wonderful openness and innocence with which God has blessed them at this moment in their young lives?

African American History Month is an annual occasion when our youngsters, as well as all of us, can pause to consider an important part of American history—a history that includes all of us, and them, too. African-American history is American history, and it belongs to the very fabric of this nation.

As these youngsters have asked questions of their Archbishop, he has a few for them. Will you continue to bring a spirit of openness and kindness into the world that awaits you? Will your parents, families and friends keep on urging you to explore the world with an open heart? Will you remember how much this Archbishop loves you and respects your families for the excellent foundation of faith that they are providing you and through you to all of the world that lies ahead for you, for them and for all of us?