Just Imagine . . .

I want to ask you to use your imagination for a couple of minutes while you read this. I heard a story a couple of days ago about a public school system that was going to use chaplains for something in their system.

I can’t remember what it was for, but it got my imagination going.

I started thinking about what it might look like if every public school in America had a chaplain. A person whom students and staff could come to talk with about an issue and maybe even pray about it.

Think about it: a person who is not a teacher or principal or even an authority figure, but a friend who dressed not in a robe but in everyday clothes, who would interact with the students and build friendships and trust.

Imagine this person could interact with students in between classes and throughout the day. Maybe they’re walking the halls between classes and asking students, “How are you doing today?”  “Hey, it’s good to see you today.” Maybe they would say, “Are you ready for the big game Friday night?” or perhaps they could go up to a group of students huddled around a locker and just say, “Hey, it’s really good to see you guys at school today. Hope everything’s going well in your lives.” You can use your imagination at what conversations might take place.

You may be thinking, “We can’t do that because of separation of church and state.” I am not a lawyer or even someone who understands a lot about the Constitution but from my understanding this would not violate the First Amendment because the chaplains would not be telling the students what religion to follow.

After all, the military has chaplains, and that is a government agency.

Imagine the chaplain being there if a student needed someone to talk to or someone just to be a friend. Maybe they’re having a tough time at home or experiencing a problem with another student, or maybe they could use someone to talk to about a boyfriend or girlfriend relationship they are involved in.

You might say these students could go to a teacher, guidance counselor, school resource officer (SRO), or principal. Indeed they could, but all these people are very busy and youth may mistakenly think they “have it all together.” The students may think these authority figures wouldn’t understand, or maybe have never had the same problem so they can’t relate.

However, a student may reach out to a chaplain with a problem or situation because this chaplain’s main responsibility would be to build friendships with the students and be there if they need someone to talk to, someone who is truly interested in what they’re going through.

Another objection may be, “We can’t afford this.” That’s probably true, but there is an SRO in almost every public school in America. If we had chaplains in our schools, maybe over time we might not need so many SROs.

As I have been writing this I have been thinking about one of my sons. When he was in fourth or fifth grade, he and another student started having problems. They just rubbed each other the wrong way. They both wanted to be the “big guy” in their class. They would do things to irritate each other. Several times they came close to getting in fights and several times were taken to the principal’s office.

One day after they had been taken to the principal, she came up with an idea. She had each student come to her office each day for a couple of weeks during their lunch break. She started talking to each boy about what was going on in their lives, and at the end before they left her office she would have them pray for each other. She would ask each boy if there was anything the other fellow could pray for him about.

Over time, these two boys became close friends. Ten years later, they are still tight. I remember my son coming home and telling his mom and me that this boy he was praying for had a really tough home life and a lot of problems his family was dealing with. Wow. That helped change my son’s way of thinking.

My son went to a Christian school so he was allowed to pray with a principal, a teacher, or with another student or for another student.

Imagine again if you could have a chaplain in every public school who could pray for and with our kids, talk with them, support them, and love our kids the way that principal did with my son and the other fellow.

Almost every year about this time we see on the news of another school shooting. Imagine how things might be different if there could be a chaplain in every school, someone for students to talk to about what they’re going through, problems in their lives, bullying, feeling alone, or feeling that no one cares.

Could our kids’ lives and our families be better?

Just imagine.

–Tim Shepherd, Vinton

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