Back in the 1980s, there was a series of commercials produced by the group Partnership for a Drug-Free America that became memes before memes were a thing; perhaps most famous is the “this is your brain on drugs” one, featuring an egg in a hot frying pan. But in second place is the one featuring a man confronting his son about drugs. “Who taught you how to do this stuff?!” he shouts incredulously. “You! I learned it by watching you” is the shocking reply.
That commercial came to mind when I sang this song, because it too is about how the ways we behave as adults affect our children. Shelly Denham’s wonderful song reminds us to take our role seriously – whether we’re parenting or just part of the community that holds our children in care.
When I am frightened, will you reassure me?
When I’m uncertain, will you hold my hand?
Will you be strong for me, sing to me quietly?
Will you share some of your stories with me?
If you will show me compassion,
then I may learn to care as you do,
then I may learn to care.
When I am angry, will you still embrace me?
When I am thoughtless, will you understand?
Will you believe in me, stand by me willingly?
Will you share some of your questions with me?
If you will show me acceptance,
then I may learn to give as you do,
then I may learn to give.
When I am troubled, will you listen to me?
When I am lonely, will you be my friend?
Will you be there for me, comfort me tenderly?
Will you share some of your feelings with me?
If you will show me commitment,
then I may learn to love as you do,
then I may learn to love.
On the UUA Song Information page, we learn the origins of this song:
This song, also titled Then I May Learn, was commissioned in 1999 by the First Unitarian Church of Dallas for their Hymnal Supplement (Voices of the Spirit) which was published for their Centennial Celebration. Because of her life-long commitment to working with and empowering youth, Shelley took the opportunity to write a piece based on children’s yearning for truth, respect, and engagement with adults. In keeping with a philosophy that “children are watching, what are they learning?”, Then I May Learn is meant as a reminder that all children deserve and need compassion, acceptance, commitment…and that they often learn to both give and receive these essential elements of relationship through the simple act of observation.
In my short time in the parish, I didn’t dedicate any children, but you can bet I would have used this song as part of that ritual. And maybe we need to be reminded of this outside of those moments as well.
What we do matters. How we show love matters. And it matters not only to our children but to each other and this hurting world. It matters, as we continue to be traumatized by this administration. It matters, as we find the courage to resist, to fight, to say “me too.” We need each other to be present for each other as we fight the good fight. It matters.
The image is a still from the above-mentioned commercial.