It’s cold. There’s a winter storm on the way. Must be time for the annual Confirmation Class pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. (Seriously, why can’t we do this when the cherry blossoms are in bloom in the spring? Just once. Please?)
With a more-than-full weekend ahead of us, the students take advantage of downtime on Friday afternoon to tackle missed schoolwork, and I use the opportunity to FaceTime with home.
“Do you want to see D.C.?” I ask the boy, who’s never been, and use my iPad to scan the view out our 18th floor window. It’s pretty outside. The sun is shining, the trees are bare, and there are buildings as far as the eye can see. But as I consider the view through his eyes, I realize nothing he can see looks especially like D.C. – no White House, no Capitol Building, no Washington Monument – and I apologize.
“That’s O.K.,” he says. “Can you see the marching?”
“The marching?” I ask.
“Yeah, the marching – you know, like we learned about at school. With Dr. King.”
“Oh, the marching.” I smile. “That was over 50 years ago,” I tell him, but gently because I love the idea that for him history is alive and real.
Yet now that our weekend is nearing its conclusion, I realize that his question was more relevant than I allowed. Our students – and 300 of their peers from synagogues around the country – have been immersed in issues of social justice… ending violence against women, disability rights, gun violence prevention, economic justice, climate change. The Religious Action Center has helped them learn how proposed legislation could play a significant role in bringing about meaningful improvements with respect to these issues and more. They’ve been empowered with tools and texts with which to raise their voices and advance the causes they care about most.
They’ve been given a glimpse of how far our country is from where we could, where we should be – and they’re impassioned to play a part in helping us get there.
Tonight they sit together in pairs and small groups all over the conference space of our hotel; papers spread out, laptops open. They’re reading and writing; discussing and debating; honing their skills of persuasion. After a quick night’s sleep, they’ll trade their sweats for business clothing, and carry their thoughts in hand, coalesced into a speech. They’ll march up Capitol Hill, like groups of Confirmation students who have marched before them (always, have I mentioned, in the cold). Like generations of concerned citizens who gave voice to the voiceless before them. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the men and women of all races and religions who answered his call.
“Can you see the marching?” the boy had asked. I sure can. And it’s leading us toward a better future for all.