August is the month social media is flooded with pics of children with backpacks and lunchboxes as they return to school. Even college students are not safe from their parents’ camera and commands to smile as they unload heavy trunks after long road trips. Those moments beg to be captured with pride and a tiny bit of sadness. It is difficult to let your children leave your care. It requires a trust that you have instilled enough in them, even at 5 years old, to survive the uncharted waters that lie ahead.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 KJV
What makes young children so amazing is their innate ability to see through God’s eyes. They do not think about the dangers of shootings, bullying, systemic racism or any other reality that adults must consider as they walk through the school doors. Children only see new friends and more ways to have fun. They do not see the brutal darkness of this world. They see joyous light. They walk in that light.
I wonder if it is that light that makes those pictures so beautiful. I enjoy seeing each one of them. The brightness exudes from a young child’s face and moves me. But no 1st day pic has ever moved me more than this photo of, then, 6 year old Ruby Bridges.
To this day, I am unable to look at it for too long for I am always brought to tears. As a child, I did not fully understand the context of this photo. I simply saw a girl who looked like me. I have pictures of myself in patent leather shoes like Ruby’s. There are dozens of photos of me with similarly decorated pigtails. Sometimes I am alone, purposefully posing for the camera in my pretty little dress. In other photos, I am with little friends or classmates. However, in not one of my pictures am I surrounded by U.S. Federal Marshals.
That is a 1st Day of School pic for every Instagram feed.
I don’t think Ruby’s tiny frame could contain the power of her naive courage. That is why it spills out of the photo through our eyes and into our hearts. It pierces deeper than sharp words on hateful signs lining the sidewalk as she walked towards the big doors. It is louder than the racial slurs being yelled at a little girl…just trying to go to school. Ruby Bridges did not know that she risked her life with every step she took. But she bravely took every step.
“Be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, it is he that goes with thee… Deuteronomy 31:6 KJV
The courage of a child is oblivious to the potential dangers of opposition. It does not care about opinions or nay-sayers. It is squarely focused on the task at hand. The focus on the face of young Ruby is clear. Her courage was untainted by life experience. We can’t see the hateful signs, but she did. We can’t hear racial slurs, but she did. And she kept walking, every day. If it is the first day of school or the first day on the job; Ruby Bridges teaches us a lesson everyone should apply to their lives. Her story is one that every child should hear. Her courage is a quality that every adult should have.