Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"I am the one who is talking."

There’s a parochial school in Philadelphia located in the shadow of Temple University Medical Center and in the center of a neighborhood that most would classify as “troubled.”   It is Saint Malachy’s, a school supported by a contingent of Philadelphia Irish Catholics (some of whom are my much loved relatives) but populated mostly by children of color living in that North Philadelphia neighborhood.  As a result of a few contributions of my own,  I have made it to Saint Malachy’s mailing list and, as a result, have been the recipient of various moving missives and powerful poetic communications from the retiring pastor, Father John McNamee.

My most recent communication was the school newsletter and it included The Students’ Creed.  I share it here.

 The Students’ Creed


            I have faith in myself.

            I have faith in my teachers.

            I can learn if I study hard.

            I respect others and seek their respect.

            I have self-respect.

            I have self-control.

            I love myself.

            And loving myself I will be myself.

            And know myself.

            I am the one who is talking.

I found this creed, recited at the start of each school day, quite moving and I’m still trying to figure out why.   It may be the focus on faith, not specifically religious faith but faith as a facet of living well.   I cannot live fearlessly without faith.  Faith in myself and my teachers seems to be a fine place to start.

It may be the focus on students’ efficacy.  I can learn, I respect, I control, I love.

But it’s probably that last line – “I am the one who is talking.”   The self who is coming to moral and intellectual and yes, spiritual, maturity is no abstraction but the concrete speaker.  It is a concept even the youngest school student can grasp.   And I talk not to myself only.  I proclaim to my community that I am present and will be accounted for.  I talk and will account for myself.

There’s no magic in this creed, but I think there’s power that supports kids’ quest to be smart and good.

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