In October, thousands of religious congregations of all faiths across the country will prepare for the 15th annual national observance of Children's Sabbaths celebrations — lifting up the needs of children in worship and action.
Many congregations will celebrate on the weekend of Oct. 20 through 22. The sabbaths were created to unite and amplify the voice of faith communities demanding justice for children. They seek to transform our nation's priorities by holding special worship services, education programs and other activities to help people learn more about problems facing children and families.
Over the last 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Children's Sabbaths have been celebrated across the nation. Until a mighty stream of justice rolls through our land and world to make them fit and safe for every child, we must continue to be a faithful voice for children as our religious teachings demand.
This year, congregations will focus on the 9 million children in our nation — one in every nine — who do not have health care coverage and the millions of others who are underinsured. They'll focus special attention on the need for emergency medical disaster relief services for Katrina's children left behind, for all who face future disasters and for comprehensive health and mental health coverage for all children.
As the mother of three sons, I spent my share of time in the pediatrician's office for checkups, immunizations, asthma attacks, ear infections, strep throat and multiple bee stings. On occasion, it was the emergency room for the inevitable stitches, sprains and broken bones. Of course, I worried, like any parent, when the boys were bike riding, playing sports, climbing trees or learning to drive.
But I never had to worry about what I would do if they got sick or got hurt — I could pick up the phone or get in my car and call or take them to the doctor. I never had to worry about whether I'd be able to get them health care or if their medical expenses would push our family into poverty or bankruptcy.
I can only imagine the anguish the parents of our nation's 9 million uninsured children feel under the unrelieved, daily weight of worry. Lack of, inadequate, and costly health and mental health coverage are problems that cut across every race, region and income as middle-class and poor parents alike struggle to afford health insurance. For some, their children must sit on the sidelines while other children play sports. Others delay treatment for sick children, hoping and praying they will get better. When treatment can't be delayed, many parents watch their financial lives crumble as they try to pay medical bills.
How can we allow this to happen to children in a rich nation that leads the world in health technology?
No more. It is simply time to say no more. There is no reason on God's good earth to allow any child to be denied the care they need now to survive, thrive and live the lives for which they were created. On the observance of Children's Sabbaths weekend, congregations of every faith across the nation will unite to proclaim all children are precious to God and to us.
It's never too late to be part of the Children's Sabbaths celebrations. For more information, visit www. childrensdefense.org.
Marian Wright Edelman is president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.