I hope you enjoyed that beer, America.

This morning, I took my normal walk for about 40 minutes around my little hood. Far fewer people were out, because it is the first day of school in my town. Four or five buses passed me during that 40 minutes, and each one prompted in me that same feeling of excitement (nerd alert: I love school), but a second later I was hit with a gut-punch of anxiety as I realized what our kids are taking on.

Our kids are now the frontline workers.

While Rome was burning, Nero fiddled. And while our school administrators and teachers were trying to figure out how the HELL to teach this fall, much of America drank beer and took vacations and went to parties in the Hollywood Hills. Apparently unable to see beyond our immediate need for a return to normalcy, we opened up far more than we should have, and we see now that the economic promise of reopening was an empty one. As Paul Krugman rightly noted last month, American drank away its kids’ future, because the economy mattered more to some than the future of our children. Which, by the way, is a false dichotomy because they are forever intertwined.

I’m not against the economy; I get it that everyone is suffering. Many small businesses are shuttered for good – but that’s not the fault of our children. The basic idea that we cannot get the economy back until we get the virus under control seems to have eluded many in power. The money simply has not gone where it needed to go, in order to solve the problem of putting 30 kids in a classroom by September.

And now, our kids are the ones who must make up the difference.

As I neared my home, I saw a young boy and both of his parents approach the bus stop. My heart broke as I watched this little guy, maybe 11 years old and holding his mother’s hand, waiting for the biggest day of his life so far. Already at a disadvantage because of his skin color, he nervously adjusted his new backpack and shifted from one foot to the other. He was clearly well-loved and had the support of his family – both parents had walked him maybe 20 feet from their home to the stop. But they can’t help him avoid COVID, and my guess is they can’t keep him home, either.

From the time of day, I know this young man was heading into middle school – a huge emotional jump for any child. And now he has even more to deal with. On top of navigating his new class schedule, multiple teachers, and the horrors of the lunchroom, he now must keep track of a mask, not touch anything, eat lunch at an assigned seat, and worry about getting sick.

As I walked by, I sent him a little wish that the Middle School Angels would watch over him, and bring him home with tales of fun teachers and exciting classes and new friends – maybe even a special one to sit with at lunch. I know it’s a big wish, but I also know some of those angels, and they are pretty powerful.

Today is a busy one for the angels. May they find time for all of our littles, and may we all love our kids a bit more right now, as they do the job no one else was able to do.