Of Messes and Wisdom

September 24th, 2009 § 0

So yesterday we weren’t able to do an all-day field trip, as basketball class had been rescheduled to Wednesday for this week. We made do with an afternoon “project” of attempting to attack the nightmare that has become Alli’s room (something I have the unique privilege of interjecting in the ‘curriculum’ as mother and teacher). Several hours yielded only mild progress, which should tell you how bad things were in that jungle. We cleared out a large box of books that we’ll be donating or trading, and found some long-lost treasures that we will both enjoy digging into as part of our studies this year. I find it interesting, btw, that a byproduct of home schooling thus far has been my willingness to adopt a whole new “library rat” mentality – as if books (and “free” books especially – barring the inevitable fines we rack up) are a new-found treasure. It’s a nice place to be, and a nice piece of myself to have rediscovered.

Anyhow, after an afternoon of book and junk-wrangling, and trying to keep my burgeoning frustration with the mess and my daughter’s lack of organization skills at bay (only mildly successfully), we embarked on an “evening field trip” to work at a soup kitchen. Our first experience doing this as a family had been amazing, and last night watching my daughter’s joy at getting the sole responsibility of opening hot dog buns and placing them on guests’ plates with a sincere smile proved to be no less amazing. The numbers are up in soup kitchens these days, not surprisingly, and I feel keenly aware of the almost insignificant turns of fate that separate my own family from other people and families who are struggling so much more.

Andrew made a comment when we picked him up at the train to dash to our serving duties that he was glad the soup kitchen was tonight, because he had run across his homeless friend downtown (a guy he’s sort-of ‘adopted’ over the last year or two, and even taken to lunch a few times) after not seeing him for a few weeks, but on a day when he had no cash in his wallet to offer. Without hesitation, Alli simply asked him, “Why didn’t you just tell him he could come to Evanston for dinner?”

I thought about explaining to her that it was a long way for him from downtown, that he was sick and probably not up for much travel, and that he probably didn’t have train fare to make the trip. I realized instead that here I was looking for justification for why we couldn’t help this man, and overlooking the simple truth that had developed for her – someone is hungry, let’s feed him.

And I let myself feel uplifted by the hope that her generation will hold fast to those kinds of truths, and that the world will be just a little bit better in their hands.

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