Everyone Belongs: a story of friendship and racism

An old children’s song goes, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Unfortunately, skin colour is one of the easiest ways in which our society judges people and finds them lacking. Everyone Belongs is a beautiful kids’ story book from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that addresses racism head-on. This beautiful story of two boys’ friendship helps parents discuss the issues surrounding racism with their kids.

Everyone Belongs by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, illustrated by Kristin Sorra

I received this book for review courtesy of the publisher; all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Everyone Belongs

Ray and Sam are best friends and play on a soccer team together. One day, Ray’s dad announces he has a surprise: they are going to be neighbours too!!! Sam is delighted to welcome his best friend’s family to his neighbourhood… until the day that a nasty message is spray-painted across his friend’s garage. In Sam’s school that week, his teacher discusses what happened and how they should respond.

Throughout our country’s history, many people have been treated with hate and fear because of their skin color or their ethnic background—this is terribly wrong. Treating people in this way is a violation of their dignity as children of God.

Together, the class makes posters saying “everyone belongs” to plaster around the neighbourhood. Then Sam discovers who vandalized his friend’s garage. He must choose to ignore what he knows, or to stand up for what’s right. The parish and soccer team then gather at Ray’s to paint and bless the house.

My Thoughts

Everyone Belongs is the story of a friendship—an ordinary friendship between two boys who like soccer. Stories draw us in, and it’s easy to connect with the characters in this story. Brief references are made to unemployment, anti-immigration sentiments, and refugee camps. Sam must decide to stand up for his friend and do what’s right, even though it’s difficult. There’s a consequence for sin, yet also a happy ending.

When we hurt one family with hateful words and actions, we hurt all families. Hate encourages hate. Love encourages love. Kids, I need to tell you, the vandalism that Ray’s family experienced hurts all of us. We need to act with love.

It can be hard to bring up current social issues with our kids. News stories are often very negative, and we may want to shield our kids from the ugly reality. Everyone Belongs draws us into a simple racist action, showing both the motivation for the action and the far-reaching consequences. Whether you read it aloud with your kids, or let them flip through it on their own, it’s sure to generate some questions and ideas about the topics.

I also liked seeing a Catholic priest and a nun in a kids’ story book. We have very few picture books in our home that portray vocations. As a convert, I find it refreshing to have a book that’s full of Catholic values, with everything we’re trying to teach our kids wrapped up into a beautiful story.

This picture book begins with a prayer and ends with more resources for families. Visit Loyola Press to download lesson plans and activities to accompany Everyone Belongs for kids in ages K-5. Parent can also read Open Wide Our Hearts: A Pastoral Letter against Racism on the USCCB website.

Ending Racism

Stories of racism make me sad. I honestly don’t know how someone can think that another person is less or not as good because their skin color is different, they speak a different language, or they have different cultural or religious traditions. Shortly after we moved to BC, I told my husband that I was having another mom from my mom’s group over for coffee. “You met her once,” I said. “She blogs, like me, and has a daughter.” He frowned, trying to remember, and then asked, “Oh, the Filipino lady?”

His question made me stop. My friend had black hair and dark skin, but I’d honestly never thought about her background. Filipino? Well, sure, she could be. In my mind, she was mom, blogger, friend, Catholic, wife, daughter. Her culture or where her parents or grandparents had been born didn’t really matter to me.

Here in BC, we’re blessed to be surrounded be people from all parts of the world (like the neighbourhood shown in Everyone Belongs). Our church is also home to a Korean parish and has many Filipino parishioners. During Advent, we enjoyed participating in Simbang Gabi, a Filipino tradition of a novena of Masses before Christmas Day, with yummy Filipino treats to share after Mass! As converts, my husband and I are trying to start Catholic traditions in our family and I love to see how other families and cultures celebrate our faith.

I hope that Everyone Belongs will help us (and our kids) to see what we have in common with other people—things like our love for a particular sport or our Catholic faith or our neighbourhood—and not the things that make us different, like skin colour.

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