Kindergartner praying: A prayer for all little kids

Kindergartner praying: A student praying over her lunch was allegedly told to stop by a lunch teacher at her school. Would it have been OK if she was just sitting quietly with her hands in her lap?

Screenshot from news video posted by Orlando Sentinel
Kindergartner praying: In this screenshot from a news interview, Kathy Perez (left) talks to reporters as her husband Marco holds their daughter Gabriella. Gabriella was told to stop praying by a teacher in school as she started to say a prayer before lunch.

A kindergartner praying over her lunch has become a national media issue because a Florida “lunch teacher” allegedly discouraged her from the act. Parents and educators alike have the opportunity to think instead what idyllic circumstances might be included in the prayers of young children.

The news of a kindergarten child being discouraged from praying by a “lunch teacher” spread like wildfire after Marcos Perez, a vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Christian book publisher, posted a video conversation with his daughter, Gabriella, as she recounted the lunchtime incident.

The incident is said to have taken place March 10 at the Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo. Florida.

I watched the YouTube video Mr. Perez posted, and the part that got me upset was not when little Gabriella says that when she put her hands together and bowed her head to pray a teacher came over and told her, "You're not allowed to do that."

Nor was it when the girl says she replied, "But it's good to pray" and the teacher allegedly responded, "It is not good."

The part that made me want to do something more than shout at my computer screen was when the child was asked by her father if she managed to say her prayer and Gabriella responded, “I was trying to pray but I just couldn’t because they caught me again.”

While some claim the child was coached or that this is a hoax generated by her father, as a mother, this was the part of the video that felt so spontaneous on the part of Gabriella that I hoped that no child would ever have their faith dampened by anyone in authority.

Also, the story made me wonder what kindergartners ask for in their prayers.

Some children who are having their first school experience might pray for new friends, or that the kids who tease them might go away.

Sadly, a few children I have met pray for the basics: food, shelter, safety.

Two years ago, while trying to help a homeless teen get aid, I overheard a 6-year-old boy in a local women and children’s shelter wish aloud so powerfully it sounded like a prayer, “Please, let us find a real place to live.”

The “please” was said by the child to the ceiling, which is where, when I was a little girl, I believed all power to solve issues originated.

The little boy at the shelter was waiting in line for lunch when he uttered his “prayer” for a blessing that went far beyond peanut butter on white bread and a carton of milk – the lunch offering of the day.

Therefore I wrote this secular prayer for kindergartners in the hopes that adults will read it and gain some insight. Perhaps it will help some educators, caregivers, and others to think twice before taking an action that could negatively impacting a child’s spirit.

Now I sit me down to lunch

To voice my hopes,

I have a bunch. 

Give me this day

a sandwich with the crusts cut off of the bread.

(Although I’d rather have pizza instead.)

Please, help me to make new friends.

Can you make it so recess never ends?

Wish I had toys I saw on TV

And that everyone would like me.

As I sit and close my eyes,

Help those watching me be wise

Please help grown-ups understand

Not every child follows their plan.

I pray that those in positions of authority over children will think before disturbing a child’s moments of reflection in the name of order, conformity, and possibly prejudice. 

In parenting, or when acting in place of a parent, it’s vital to see past our own personal sense of propriety as we negotiate issues pertaining to the personal faith of a young child.

Also, in any chaotic environment filled with children, those in charge should be thrilled when even one child chooses a moment of silence over adding to the din.

After all, anyone who cares for young children knows if a child is being quiet and doing no harm, you should count your blessings and leave them be.

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