by Alice Coke
In today’s world, the letters DEI are used frequently. Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion have become the cry of so many in our nation and around the world. People marched in the streets during the past year to show solidarity and acknowledge the struggles and mistreatment of those who have been oppressed for far too long.
Yet, if we use history, we see that this fight is not new. It has been a fight from the very beginning. If we look at our own recent past as the United States of America, during the 1960’s people marched to end racial injustice and inequality. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly designated that year as the “International Year for Actions to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.” Yet, here we are, 50 years later. What has really changed?
And what does this have to do with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd? Why is this important to our work with the very youngest children? Why mess with something that is as good as CGS?
Why? Because that is what Jesus would do. That is what Sofia would do. And that is what we must do.
This year, I was lucky enough to be able to continue to work at school with students in the atrium. There was a 1st grader who was new to the school and the atrium. In speaking with his teacher at the beginning of the year, she wanted me to know that this student “has a hard time concentrating on one thing or staying still for very long.” In the atrium, I found that he went from material to material without really mastering any.
Yet, he continued to ask for the Good Shepherd. In March, I decided to present this to him with the assurance we would not make it through without him getting up. Yet he proved me wrong.
We sat with the sheep and the Good Shepherd, pondering what it meant. I asked if he would like to work with it by himself, and he quickly replied yes. He worked with the sheepfold for at least 15 minutes before he came to get me.
We sat down next to the sheepfold, and he asked me, “Do you think the Good Shepherd wants to separate the sheep?” Looking down at the sheepfold, I saw that he had the sheep divided by color. (The sheep in our atrium are brown, and black, and gray, and white.) I replied, “No, the Good Shepherd wants all His sheep to be together, safe and loved, within His sheepfold”, and I moved the sheep, mixing them together and facing the Good Shepherd. I looked at this child. He was at peace. And with a sigh he said, “I knew it.”
You see, this child is white. Our school is diverse. This child had never been with children of color before. This child was asking the questions we lift up as important to the Level II children, “Who am I? How am I in relationship with God and with each other? How will I write on my blank page? “
If my sheep had been all white, this question would not have shown itself. This child would not have been able to give voice to what he was pondering. He was able to see himself in the sheepfold, but more importantly he was able to see all in the sheepfold together.
This is the DEI work of the atrium. Not forcing but allowing the child to understand the Good Shepherd calls ALL sheep by name and ALL sheep will listen to His voice and follow. Our duty to the child is to give opportunities to find the work that creates a better world. We are then doing what Jesus would do; we are then doing what Sofia would do. Meeting the child where they are and helping them find the Light in this very divided and harsh world.