The Children’s Defense Fund’s logo comes from a drawing I saw in a gallery window during a walk through Cambridge, Massachusetts nearly fifty years ago, after my family had moved to the Boston area where CDF had its beginning. The artwork was by five-year-old Maria Coté, and shows a bright sun shining on a small boat with a tiny sail adrift on a very wide sea. Above the boat in Maria’s handwriting is the ancient fisherman’s prayer: “Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.”
In 1974, when CDF completed its first report, I asked permission from Maria’s mother to use the drawing on the cover. A few years later, when someone suggested CDF ought to have a logo, I looked at Maria’s drawing hanging above my desk and realized it reflected CDF’s mission more truthfully than any abstract piece prepared by the graphic arts firm we’d consulted ever could. Maria’s mother agreed to our trademarking her daughter’s piece.
Children’s tiny lifeboats are always so small and in need of protection as they navigate their way through our world. But the metaphor of children adrift in dangerous seas feels painfully literal when they are caught in actual storms. Right now children and adults in Puerto Rico, Florida, and other places along the Southeast coast and waterways are struggling to recover from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian. Many will spend the next days and weeks in deep uncertainty, waiting to find out when schools will reopen, whether adults will be able to go to work, and when—if ever—families will be able to go home.
José Andrés is the extraordinary chef and humanitarian who founded the nonprofit World Central Kitchen to provide and serve meals after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. World Central Kitchen is already on the ground serving hot meals after these storms, just as they have now done in disaster zones and war zones around the world. Andrés has said his humanitarian work is influenced by something he learned about boats while serving in the Spanish Navy: “I learned the power of bringing a group of people together to try to move a ship against winds and against currents, but always trying to take it to safety of a good port.”
This is what we all must do. I share a few prayers for the adults and caregivers affected by these hurricanes and floods who must continue trying to steer children to safety right now even in the midst of their own uncertainty.
God, straighten our backs
clear our heads
strengthen our voices and judgment
infuse our hearts
with Your mighty and comforting spirit.
O God for whom nothing is too hard
Who makes the impossible possible
Every minute of every day
Kindle within us an unshakable faith
In Your presence, power, and goodness.
God, help us to be like bamboo, which bends and bows and sways in the winds but never breaks.