Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, a non-profit champion of American youth and the recipient of many awards for her work including a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award.

In the preface to this spiritually edifying paperback, Edelman writes that "the overarching challenge for America is to rebuild a sense of community and hope and civility and caring and safety for all our children. I hope God will guide our feet as parents — and guide America's feet — to reclaim our nation's soul."

Edelman started out to write a book on policy and was surprised when "out tumbled prayers instead." She intersperses the prayers, though, with autobiographical materials and her own commentary based on her struggles with prayer as a parent and children's advocate. The integration of the personal, social, political, and spiritual is what makes this little volume pack a punch. Edelman writes, for instance, about learning that freedom is not free:

"In fact, freedom brought reciprocal responsibility and demanded continuing vigilant effort. Just as we sang and were trained to 'Give of Your Best to the Master' in church and chapel, so we understood that doing our best carried over into every aspect of our lives. Serving God and others well was synonymous with excellence — an internally driven ethic rather than and externally imposed requirement."

She has gathered a superb collection of prayers and meditations for parents and other readers. This material has been arranged under the following heads:

  • The Rituals of Love and Parenting
  • A Struggle toward Personal Faith and Courage
  • On Justice for Children
  • Prayers and Litanies for Community Leaders and Religious Congregations

As always, Edelman's vulnerability mixed with unshakeable faith leaves a deep impression. She can, on one hand, offer up a prayer of struggle and strength like this:

"I just want to cry and cry and cry, Lord,
I can't bear my burden today or see my way
to tomorrow."

And on the other hand, she can speak of a mountain adventure trip as a metaphor for her lifelong work for children:

"The quest to put children first has required climbing mountain after mountain with no end in sight. But we must not despair. Child advocates must keep moving, putting one foot ahead of the other, basking in the beauty of our children, in the chance to serve and engage in a struggle for a purpose higher than ourselves, and continue to work and pray hard. I have no doubt we will catch our cable car to success one day."

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