Many weekday mornings, I’m in the office fairly early – usually before 07:00. The typical exception is an early flight to one of the many areas of the country where I’m fortunate to have work with great team members.
This Thursday was an unusual treat, though, as I had a chance to visit Peanut’s school to participate in their morning convocation and their honoring of Peanut and others who worked hard to achieve Dean’s List and Head’s List academic status in the first semester of the 2012-13 school year.
I thought we were there to recognize academic accomplishments. I was quickly reminded that, while a secondary purpose of our gathering, I was primarily mistaken.
The auditorium was filled with about four hundred middle school students – grades five through seven. A refreshingly abundant gathering of proud and supporting parents filled the back rows and the balcony.
I was struck by how incredibly quickly a hush fell over the students and they came to order as the Dean led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. There was no announcement or call to order – simply, when he stood, faced the flag, and placed his hand upon his heart, the students all seemed to know that this was a time of honor and what was expected of each of them.
As we recited the pledge, I was reminded of doing the same in my elementary school days. I remembered standing in the second row from the right side of Mrs. Daly’s second grade class at Maybeurry Elementary School, reciting the pledge every morning after Mr. Mitchell greeted us over the public address system. Those of you old enough to recall the daily pledge in public schools will recall the scene…a small flag on a wooden dowel stuck into a metal bracket at the top of the chalkboard – you know…the chalkboard with the laminated, green banner with white, cursive upper and lower case letters of the ABCs taped across the top of the board and just under the base of the flag. Anyway…
Just after we recited the pledge on Thursday, a young lady – one of the students – stood to read a poem about faith and hope, followed by a brief passage of scripture. She then called the assembly to join her in prayer.
I’ll admit it…while she led the prayer, I peeked. Sorry, but it’s a pretty awesome sight to see four hundred middle school kids hushed in prayerful silence with bowed heads at barely 07:45 in the morning.
We spent the balance of our time together receiving the daily announcements and then…finally…celebrating the academic leaders of the first semester. It’s a great moment to hear your child’s name called out in recognition of their hard work – and even better to see them stand, turn, and smile with pride and appreciation for the celebration of their accomplishments. Their accomplishments are significant and not to be overlooked, as they are representative of determination, commitment, and effort over time – a degree of focus not always easily achieved and sustained at such a young age.
Yet, as I think about it, the truly great accomplishment is that four hundred children come together daily to start their day with the Pledge of Allegiance and to offer their prayers and to ask Him to guide them throughout the coming day. That’s cool.
As I climbed into my truck to head into my own duties of the day, it occurred to me that the importance of the morning’s gathering was well beyond an assembly to recognize academic accomplishment. Rather, the importance was to assemble, acknowledge, and affirm that we are “one nation, under God…indivisible…” and that we give praise and thanks as we know that we are and have all through Him.
And so, yet again, I wonder about the possibilities. It strikes me that starting each day with our pledge of loyalty and unity and underscoring it with a concerted effort to pray for our loved ones, those around us, our country, and the world at large is not something that has to stop when adulthood is achieved chronologically. While in this life, we may strive to graduate from our academic studies, but we are at our best when we continue our post-graduate studies in our faith as Christians.
Even in the busiest of times…those days when we arrive in the office before 07:00 or board an exceptionally early flight…many of us still seem to find the time to make it through the line at Starbucks or complete some other ritual of self-reward. And while a three-pump-vanilla-extra-hot-soy-2-Splenda-no-whip-whizbang-double-latte-whatever (double-cupped with a stopper, of course) may kick our day into gear with a sip and a smile, what if we all stop, consider, contemplate, and pray for a moment – for how we will conduct ourselves, how we will respond to the challenges of the day, and how we will shine a bit of His light into the world and the lives of those around us throughout the course of the day ahead?
Perhaps the caffeine isn’t really what we need to improve our consciousness.
What can the day hold if started with a Pledge and a Prayer?