Wendell Berry recently reminded us that the word, kindred, while a rather antiquated term for extended family members is also “related” to the word, kind.
My friend, colleague, and mentor, Susan Verbrugge, pastor at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church recently shared that the custodian came into their office to share what she had just learned from one of the longtime Head Start employees. Head Start is a national child development program for those from birth to age five, which provides services to promote academic, social, and emotional development for low income families. It provides education, health, nutrition, dental, mental health, social services, and parental involvement programs designed to help people help themselves out of poverty. Having worked with this program as a member of our community action board, I can personally attest to the transformative power of a child’s education in the life of a family and even of a nation.
But in this country, because of the across-the-board, federal funding cuts known as sequestration, next year’s Head Start program in Blacksburg will operate just three days a week from 9 until noon, rather than five days a week from 9 to 3 o’clock. They have been serving over fifty children, but now, they will enroll only seventeen. Such dramatic cuts are taking place in every state and yet, Head Start’s total budget accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget. One percent! I believe this situation calls for bold advocacy!
Just a few weeks ago, we, as a nation of kindred spirits eager to be on time, made enough noise to keep our airplanes flying on schedule. Will we be bold enough to keep vulnerable preschool children in a nurturing, educational environment? Will we put aside our political differences in order to compromise and assist families in need? Will we be kind enough to invest in empowering those of our kin who are less fortunate? Let me stress that these questions are not about Republicans verses Democrats, but rather boil down to the fundamental difference between individualism and the common good. This is about short-term convenience or the long-term health of our society.
This week, the stories of sacrifices by members of the community in Moore, Oklahoma have been incredibly inspiring, as has the outpouring of support across from across the country. I challenge us to advocate on behalf of, not only for those children who were victims of natural disasters, but also those children who are about to become victims of economic policy disaster. I challenge us to live into the idea that “kindness” and “kindred” share the same root word.
 Head Start received 1.27 billion of the 6.2 trillion federal budget (http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/head-start)