This school year my 3rd students and I have looked seriously into hunger and homelessness. For the next couple posts I'll share newsletters I sent home sort of outlining our field study to Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia, SC.
The letters home had lots of cool pictures of the kids on the bus, in the food bank, waiting patiently to get checked in. For obvious reasons I have to leave those out.
Never doubt a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Meade, American anthropologist
I wrote this on the bus on the way to what was one of the most important field studies ever for me. I know that I often speak in superlatives. This was the greatest thing, that was the most awesome event. I know, I know, I'm trying not to do that so often... But today, as the children sang their sweet songs (like they were on stage) they moved people. Tammy Huddle, who was our guest speaker months ago from Harvest Hope, was in tears. Here is what I managed to write on the bus on the way there. More later as I get a chance to reflect on the day.
What a great feeling to celebrate our learning and social justice work by taking this late spring field trip to Harvest Hope Food Bank, the benefactors of our fund raising and social justice project for the better part of the year. Our school bus is loaded with bags and boxes of food; we have a check for $1,240.01 (which does not include the checks already sent). I brought my old Seagull classroom guitar and we have songs in our hearts for the people who work at Harvest Hope.
Today is the dessert for all of the days we spent reading and learning about homelessness, for all of the money donated from kids' piggybanks, earned from parents for extra chores, from allowance never spent on treats and toys. Our money also came from the sales of CDs of our original songs - many of which were sold at the teacher conference where the kids sang like angels in a choir and brought many of the audience members to tears.
Each time children dropped coins into our "jug of generosity" I asked them to tell the stories of how they came to get the money. Birthday money from a loved one, tooth fairy money from, "this tooth right here," one child said as she pulled back her cheek revealing a bloody socket where a molar used to be just the day before. "This is from my allowance, but we are expected to give some to charity." My eyes filled with tears several times at their sweet stories of generosity. "This is all the money I have in the world," one said yesterday as she put in 31 cents from her pencil box.
There is an end-of-the-year-craziness as the bus cruises down Highway 77 with the windows open. A wild, joyful spirit fills the bus as the cool wind whips our hair around and kids shout to be heard and we play word games and Hangman and Nim. "Hey! My dad used to work there!" as we pass a an office building. "This is the way we go to church!" yells another.
To these children, a field study is an experience in fun. Today we get the bonus of performing again - which most dearly love to do (the little hams!). But today as I reflect on their generous spirit of this gang of best friends, it takes my breath away. After today we'll never be together on a bus again. We'll never all be in the same room with our school t-shirts and our nametags.
Because our days together are numbered. And it hurts my heart. You would think that after 35 years in this biz I would get used to it; saying good bye to a class of young people who become like my own family. But it only seems to be getting harder. I do enjoy the kickback days of summer, where I can read fiction, play guitar on the back porch, where I can put in my hours of university work and plan ahead for the next school year in an unhurried fashion.
But as long as I live, I'll remember this playful group of BFFs who can tease and laugh and cry at the end of a book - just recently Grandfather's Dance. I'll remember the games of dodge ball and kickball, and watering the garden boxes. I'll remember digging up bones and reconstructing skeletons and feeding lizards and snakes. I'll remember jokes and classroom jobs and singing and writing songs.
But what makes this year different from all other years is this study of hunger and homelessness. The books, the visitors, writing the song, recording the CD, the feeling that we are just a small group of like-minded people but that we can make a difference...
TO BE CONTINUED... Tim