"White girls on the bus told me my bad skin was black and another mixed girl said her skin was lighter and her hair was better, and that mine looked like a cat's fur ball or poop."
That's the top story from my daughter's day at school. She drug her feet and nearly missed the bus this morning. She came home crying in the afternoon.
"My bucket is empty," she said while trying to share about feeling hurt, sad and confused.
I felt the drops evaporating from my own emotional bucket as we talked.
We unpacked her day and I gained some clarity about what happened at school. From my 1st grader's viewpoint, there's more meanness and misbehavior this week. Discussions, comments, comparisons and judgments are being cast within playground circles about who's "better" because of their skin tone, along with other physical features.
This isn't totally new, and prior to today I've balanced my reactions with a keen awareness that "kids will be kids." But this week, my heart tells me there's more to this. There's things going on I can't see.
All I have to do is scroll through a news feed and peek at headlines about the NFL, flags, vets, Puerto Rico aid, the Dreamers and a travel ban to get some idea of where it's coming from.
If we as adults don't think the online discourse is rolling off our smart phones and TVs, and into our kids' minds, we're kidding ourselves.
As my daughter unveiled her sorrow, all I could do was throw my pasty white, freckled arms around her beautiful brown skin and tell her I was so sorry. I renewed hope that our story can offer light into the racist darkness. I reminded her of truth: she is beautiful and nobody is better than anyone because of skin color, much less anything else. A JoJo song about haters came to her mind and (after I got over the fact she's been listening to JoJo), I encouraged her to make the song her personal anthem when she boarded the bus in the morning.
As she found comfort, "My bucket's filling up a little, Mama," I had to be real with her.
"I wish I could tell you those white girls on the bus will be the only ones who say mean things, but that's probably not true. There's a lot of adults who think they're better than you because of their skin color too. All I can do is remind you that I love you, God loves you, and those people are wrong about you. Don't give them the time of day."
After a few books, goodnight prayers and several cuddles later, I tucked her in and began to pen a blog titled "A plea to white parents" with a powerful ending that basically asked for support in discussing equality with our kids or staying the crap away from my child.
But I paused before hitting publish. Thank goodness, a fresh perspective came.
As good as it felt to steep in anger and pen an impulsive, powerful post, I realized my madness wouldn't do anything in the long run. I didn't need to add my voice to the growing disdain. I instead needed to lead by love. I needed to pray.
I began praying for my daughter and her school. For the mean kids and their parents. For our country and its leadership. For all who feel less than, marginalized and scared right now.
As I prayed, I was reminded this is not a skin issue we face; we've got a multi-generational sin issue on our hands. If we don't act in love to break these strong chains of resentment and denial, we will pass this chaos on to our kids.
The issue is bigger than sound bytes and headlines. It's certainly not one that's going to be fixed with one blog, interview or tweet. It's not even going to be resolved if we take a knee - although that's been a powerful way to awaken discussion.
If we want to see real change in our families, communities, schools and country, we who pray are going to need both knees.