May Day or Mayday

The month of May has rolled around again. It’s the season of Mother’s Day and graduation ceremonies and Memorial Day. There’s Cinco de Mayo if you are just looking for a reason to have a party.

It’s the season for tornadoes here in our neck of the woods. There are a lot of sober memories coming in the next several days. It’s a time of cautions along with the celebrations. And for most Oklahomans, it’s time for the shedding of jackets and the transition to shorts until at least September.

This month kicks off with May Day on the 1st. For much of the world it is has been a centuries-old celebration of the arrival of spring. There are maypoles and lots of flowers and all kinds of festivities. (I’m hesitant to recommend it, but my mind plays back “The Lusty Month of May” from the Broadway classic, Camelot.) There are lots of different traditions, but in many places it is observed much like our Labor Day in the United States.

As I was turning over the page on the calendar to look at what’s on the horizon, I had to go look at the history of May Day. It’s not a particularly fascinating backstory, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the connection might be with the distress call that we hear in movies when a plane has an engine failure or a ship is about to sink. That was a more interesting rabbit to chase. It turns out it is the sound (though a very different spelling) of a French word meaning “help me.”

The familiar distress signal was an easily discernible sound even through telephone and radio transmissions, but particularly when repeated three times in succession:

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

It was an easy to remember, easy to understand, widely known expression of distress. But it has nothing to do with the month of May.

But here we are in this month where, in many places, the school year comes to a close and summer break begins. For a lot of families that is a very challenging transition. For a lot of kids, it can be a very scary change indeed. In too many instances, it means that the most caring voices in their lives won’t be heard for a couple of months or that the compassionate eyes they know will not be seeing them for a while.

The month of May here in the United States is National Foster Care Month. It’s an acknowledgment intended to help raise our societal awareness of the reality of the need for foster care and, in particular, more compassionate and loving folks to step up to meet that need. It is a time to remember that families matter deeply and that we, as a nation, ought to invest energy and kindness into helping families thrive so that fewer kids have need of foster care.

But what does that have to do with the international distress signal? Not a lot… unless you happen to be one of those kids whose home life is, for some reason, just not safe and healthy. The problem is that they don’t know how to say, “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

And even when they know they are not safe or that their environment is not healthy, the fact is that it’s our nature to love our parents even when they’re not very good at loving us. It’s a nearly impossible thing for a child to cry out for the desperately needed help they don’t know how to find. It’s a lot less visible than a blown engine on an airplane. It’s usually a much slower sinking than a ship at sea, but the outlook is often the same.

Can I ask you to join me in this month of May in particular in giving some thoughtful attention to the reality of foster care and the more than 391,000 kids in the system right now?

Can we pray for kids all around that are in foster care and the families that are caring for them?

Can we pray for the families that are striving to do what they must so that reunification might come about?

Can we pray for the social workers and judges and attorneys and advocates that are trying to make the most wise decisions possible in what often seems like impossible situations?

Can we pray for the teachers and coaches and church workers and others who encounter these kids from day to day in the hopes that the desperate needs might be recognized sooner rather than later?

Can we pray for a day to come when the foster care system is no longer needed?

Maybe we could begin to see how you and I may be able to make a difference.

If you’re celebrating this May Day, don’t forget to look and listen for the needs around you crying, “Mayday!”

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