There’s a wistfulness in the air.

A longing. A nostalgia. A reflectiveness. A little sadness, too.

It comes around every year about this time when the back-to-school sales are in full swing. When parents start talking about the fact that they’re “ready” for their children to have the structure of the school bell again.

Teachers stay up late at night to practice standing at blackboards with their backs to the children while still seeing every move they make. It’s a talent they’re born with, but it also involves some skill to keep it honed.

They sharpen number two pencils just so until they have bouquets of school-bus-yellow encased lead writing utensils. Ah, there’s a fragrance all its own not replicated in candles or flowers or anything else in nature or manmade. It’s an aromatic bouillabaisse of lead and sawdust, which carries with it the promise of learning and expanding horizons.

What most of us mere citizens don’t know, but the best teachers do, is that those pencils are keys to doors that once flung open, in turn open other doors that were hidden from view. Like holding up a mirror to a mirror, the doors are endless, as are the possibilities of what each child can learn.

And the children? There’s a giving up and a looking forward. Giving up the freedom of summer. Of sleeping late and going barefoot. Of swimming and playing and hanging out. But the looking forward of seeing friends. Of adventures found only in learning. Of stretching and growing in ways they never imagined. Of slowly discovering who they are and who they will become, as they are molded and shaped into future citizens of this country.

My prayer for each child this new school year is that they may jump into the world of learning like they jump into the freedom of summer. That they may open up their minds and their hearts to new ideas and information. That they may learn how to be better human beings by learning how others throughout history have lived and learned. Some they’ll want to emulate. Some they will not. May they know the difference.

Whether they’re starting kindergarten or starting college, my prayer is that they may carry with them the faith of their ancestors. The ones who eked out a living so that their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all the way down the line could have an education. Who sacrificed in ways unknown to others so that their offspring could worship freely without fear of retribution or worse.

My prayer is that our schools are filled with children who know the Lord. Who see faith modeled at home and naturally embrace that generational faith. But if there’s not faith at home, I pray that children will find it through others. Through friends and their families. Through role models. Through teachers and coaches. Through after school programs. Through an invitation to church, Sunday School or youth group. I pray that the Lord will send good people in their paths to plant seeds and to lead the way to Him.

I also pray that our schools will be bully-free zones. That each child will feel safe and have the opportunity to learn and live without fear. I pray for the bullies, too. They’re not born that way. May they receive the help they need to change and to grow. May they embrace faith with the fervor they once bullied others.

May the Lord be gracious to our students, their families, our teachers, our leaders. To all who shape and influence young minds.

May all who are lost find their way back home and may they be beacons of light to others, pointing them to the greatest teacher of all, Jesus.

The crickets are singing their song. It’s an ancient one that after all these years of living I finally understand. It’s more than just music. It’s a calling. A beckoning to fall. The notes are fingers saying, “Come here. It’s time.” It’s a reminder and also a command. Time to change. Time to grow. Time to let go. Time to embrace. There’s a wistfulness and a promise.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at


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