It happened again. Once more I stood among a group of people. They were laughing, I was confused. But this time, as it dawned on me what was going on, I grew angry.
Last time, when I sat among a group of teachers who were laughing at a photo of an antique hoe found in Virginia - because it made them think of a 'hoe', i.e. whore - I was saddened that for so many adults, a deviant sexual act would be their first thought. It had never occurred to me; but it was their immediate response.
But this time, it was different. This time, it was children. And I saw, in an instant, how we have willingly killed their innocence.
I was introducing books for the 'Literary Circle' readings. I would hold up a book, tell a little about it, and let my class of 11 year olds decide if it was one they wanted to read. Having introduced all but one, I grabbed the final book to hold it aloft. It was about a boy their age living in Virginia during the Civil War. His family had died at the hands of Yankees, starvation and disease; and now he was living with his Uncle - who refused to fight in a War he did not believe in. It is a wonderful book about principle, honor, understanding and acceptance. It essentially showed that there are different kinds of patriotism - in this case - different shades of Confederate gray.
Hence the title: Shades of Gray
That was as far as I got. As I held the book up and announced its title, the class exploded in giggles and laughter. I stood there confused. What was funny?
Was there lipstick on my teeth?
Did they think the picture of the boy on the front looked dumb?
I turned around, was there something on the black board behind me? I stood there clueless, and finally said, "What in the world are you all laughing at?"
And that's when it came out. "Mrs. Fox," they giggled, "Shades of Gray - like '50 Shades of Gray'!!" And they erupted in laughter once again.
And this time, this time, I got mad. It was such a clear moment of the crime we are committing against our children - and it made me angry to see it.
I stood looking at them, and they slowly quieted down, smirking as they did so.
"You know," I began, "that I don't watch television, or pay attention to the stupidity that comes out of Hollywood." (I had often talked about that, and how they needed to turn off the idiot box, get outside and live a life. They are always amazed that someone could go through life without daily anesthetizing their brains with the garbage on television, and often ask how I 'do it?' - like it's living without oxygen or something.)
"And so," I continued, "I would like to point something out to you. When you saw this title, the very first thing that came to your mind was a pornographic book. A pornographic book. And you are, at most, 12 years old."
They began to shift a little in their seats.
"And yet," I noted, "it never even occurred to me, a grown woman. I know about this book, but I don't put evil into my brain - and hence, evil is not the first thing I think of. But it WAS, for you. I want you to think about that, because what you put in your mind will come out in your life. And in this case - a pornographic, evil book... came out first."
The smirks were gone. There was dead silence in the room as they all looked at me, eyes wide as saucers, mortification on their faces.
As I turned to walk back to my desk, I heard a girl whisper, "my mom has it on the kitchen table!", and I stopped.
I faced them again, and said, "You know, when I was a little kid, and again when I was raising my kids too, it was universally known that the job of a parent is to keep evil away from your child. In the past, parents have literally fought to the death to do so; to protect their children's bodies, minds, souls and hearts - their innocence - from corruption and evil. No one, no one, would ever think it was a good idea to introduce it to them. If your parents are introducing evil to you; then perhaps you need to ask them a simple question - "Why? Why, as my parent, do you want to bring evil into my life?" Maybe they just don't know what they are doing."
"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34
2,000 years later, you would think we would have finally attained that knowledge, and stopped acting so stupidly. You would think we would have finally stopped choosing sin over goodness, degeneration over virtue, death over life - but I guess not...
Yet this time, as I witness - first in my law practice and now as a teacher - the brokenness our intentional ignorance has wrought among families and children; I almost wonder if we stand without excuse.
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.