The word "health" comes from the same root as "wholeness." We might see this as logically implying that children can be "healthy" or "whole" only when basic needs are met. These needs include:
Physical health: Society must assure safe places for children to live, with adequate food and medical attention. Too often children are left unattended, unfed, subjected to abuse or exposed to drugs and violence.
Emotional health: Every child is deserving of love and blameless for what has gone before. To assure each one a fair share of love and joy, we must promote those feelings and show constructive behavior in ourselves.
Psychological health: Only by addressing problems as they arise in the lives of our children will we nurture the best instincts of each child. By accepting ourselves as imperfect, and working to overcome our problems, we can teach children how tolive without frustration and hostility.
Social health: A society rife with inequality can make children grow up feeling cynical or hopeless. We must minimize unfairness and provide children with the avenues and tools needed to help themselves. Our children must also understand that race or ethnicity makes them inherently neither inferior nor superior. They must be shown that all are endowed with the same inalienable rights and responsibilities in society.
Spiritual health: For the benefit of our children, we must ground them in faith, but we must also show that we are not limited by following Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, B'hai, Buddhism or any other faith. We can honor and celebrate differences, and, (as theologian Howard Thurman said), search for common ground with people of all faiths.
One important ideal of the church I serve, and the Interfaith Alliance to which we belong, is that all faiths that honor justice, promote equity and express humanity's connection with the divine in search for ultimate truth are worthy of respect.
If we neglect or refuse to teach children about ethical values, we will leave all religious, ethical and moral education to whatever influences may arise.
We must give our children spiritual roots from which they can grow, with the means to make responsible decisions in their own lives, and the ethical tools to lead the society they will inherit from us.
That will be the test of our faithfulness to our duty as parents, care-givers and shapers of our posterity.
The Rev. Daniel L. King is pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta.