Back to school shopping has evolved in our household.

This year we bought notebooks with a front cover image of One Direction, a British boy band consisting of five irresistible mop tops. Last year our notebooks featured Justin Bieber, if you’ve ever heard of him.

The year before that we purchased brooding notebooks with images of Edward Cullen, the impossibly beautiful vampire from the “Twilight” series. And before that, we brought home notebooks depicting the Jonas Brothers, a family pop trio of cuteness and hotness. I’m sure you remember them.

I recall my own school supplies of long ago with depictions of Barbie, the Partridge Family, and yes, the Bay City Rollers.

The themes of our school supply purchases are like a child’s daydream. A backpack full of budding discovery. A locker full of emerging hopes. And a shopping bag of full-blown marketing to parents, for those notebooks also hold the dreams of mothers like me.

No matter who is pictured on my kids’ notebooks I still want the same thing and maybe you do too: We want our kids to have it all.

But there’s more to our parental dreams.

My pastor isn’t one for children’s sermons, but recently she pulled a clever one. Just before stepping into the pulpit, she invited everyone under 18 to come forward to help present a visual aid. Ballet bun atop her head, my statuesque high school daughter processed down the center aisle joining babies, toddlers, middle-schoolers and about 21 other youths at the front of the sanctuary, all wondering what the pastor had in mind.

The congregation wondered too, though distracted by the charming kiddos who waved and blew kisses. Diversions aside and visual aid assembled, my pastor announced a disturbing statistic: One in five children in our immediate community do not have enough to eat.

We live in Iowa, agricultural epicenter, breadbasket for the world, home of the World Food Prize, yet research shows that 20 percent of the children who live here are hungry.

My pastor proceeded to count out the assembled group of kids by fives, with every fifth kid stepping out to the front, like a lottery you wish was science fiction. And thus we could visually imagine the impact of this sinister statistic.

The kids returned to their pews. My pastor proceeded to preach on what it means to be the bread of life. She told us that Jesus Christ calls for nourishment of mind, body and spirit — and that call is ours to answer. That’s my paraphrase, for I could never write as well as she preaches.

But her sermon illustration brings me back to parental dreams inside the notebooks. With or without pop stars and blood-sucking advertising campaigns, as my kids grow older my hopes grow deeper.

I hope my kids learn another language. I hope they learn to love books. I hope they learn trigonometry, biology and geography. I want my kids to succeed, yes, but I want even more. I want my kids to care.

I want my daughter and son to run with their curiosity and avoid status quo. I want them to really see the world around them in all its splendor and suffering, feeling joy and compassion until it oozes out of their very being.

I hope their desires are big. Really big. Too big for adults to contain. I hope they learn to love.

Is that too much for a mother’s back-to-school daydream?

Terri Mork Speirs
Terri Mork Speirs is director of marketing and communications at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.  She recently completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. She is a writer and mother as well as a grant writer for Children & Families of Iowa.  She is a frequent contributor to Living Lutheran and attends St. John Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa.  

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