A few weeks ago it was “Poem in Your Pocket Day” at my kindergartener’s school. This is a day when each student is asked to bring a poem to school to share with her classmates. They can either memorize the poem or print it out and bring it in with them to read. In theory, I am completely supportive of this idea. I’ve loved poetry since I was in high school; my personal collection of poetry books is quite extensive. And I’ve read all about the benefits of children reading and memorizing poetry. So I should be all over this.
Except, of course, it was the end of the school year and between Holy Week and Easter, dance recitals, choir performances, year-end parties, and my daughter’s spring birthday, I was maxed out. I completely forgot the poem assignment until the night before (after my daughter was in bed), so all I could do was set one of the children’s poetry books on the counter and ask my husband to help Adelaide choose a poem in the morning while I attended an early meeting.
I set out the book, gave my husband the assignment, and then promptly forgot about it. Until I picked up Adelaide from school the next day. At that point, she excitedly showed me the colored paper and string “pocket” necklace she had created for her poem. And then she stood up proudly with joy in her sparkling eyes and said, “Mama, I choose the Bible poem as my choice!”
“Huh?” was my oh-so-eloquent response.
“I picked the Bible poem! The one about loving kindness!”
Still not completely sure what she was talking about, I said, “That’s great, do you remember it?”
“I forgot all of it. But I remember that it’s about God telling us to love kindness. That’s why I picked it. It was my favorite.”
“Is it this one, ‘God has told you what is good: to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’?”
“Yes!!!” She exclaimed brightly. “You know it too!”
Adelaide then flounced off to the playground, poem forgotten. But I sat there on my heels for a moment, stopped in my tracks. The poetry book that I’d left on the table had many options: silly story-poems by Shel Silverstein, familiar nursery rhymes like Humpty Dumpty, whimsical verses about fairies and dragons and princesses. But nestled in between them was Micah 6:7-8,
God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
And, my husband later told me, without prompting or direction, without hesitation, my daughter choose the prophet Micah.
I’m not sure why, really. Maybe because it was short, or she liked the picture. Maybe because those words sounded comforting and familiar because she’s heard them before. Maybe because she thought it would please her priest parents, that she choose something from the Bible. I don’t know why she chose it, but she did. And her choice humbles and astounds me.
Because here’s the thing, the secret that I’m ashamed to share. I don’t know that I would have even considered Micah, if it were my choice. I don’t really think of the prophets as poetry; as a priest who reads them regularly, I suppose they are made mundane by familiarity. And a poem about books or dragons would have seemed more fun, more something I’d want to share if it were my choice and my friends.
But my daughter chose the prophet Micah, and her choice teaches me. It reminds me that prophecy is poetry. It teaches me that the Bible is the most beautiful book ever written, that it stands the test of time, it echoes through the ages, and still appeals to even the smallest children. It tells me that the familiarity of biblical narrative matters, that it sinks into our bones and becomes a part of us in powerful, surprising ways. And, it challenges me. Because I can’t think of anything better to carry in my pocket every day than a little snippet of scripture, held close, echoing through my day, through my mind, through my heart.
I wonder: what poem would you choose, to carry in your pocket?
I wonder: what snippet of scripture can you hold close today?
[Image Credit: Public Domain via Pexels]