A few weeks ago, I was volunteering at a program in our children's school. The object of the program is to bring in all the different classes, from first grade through fifth grade, to make sandwiches for one of the local food banks. While our children aren't yet old enough to participate, I'm looking forward to next year when they get to experience this important community service program first hand.
The PTA will supply the bread, mustard and mayonnaise condiment packages, ziploc bags and disposable gloves that the kids need to wear during sandwich prep. The students provide the meat and cheese. Because there seems to be an unlimited supply of bread, how many sandwiches we make are a function of the meat and cheese supply.
So I'm in the cafeteria, helping the fifth grade class make sandwiches and one of the students in an effort to undoubtedly gain a positive reaction from his peers, was rudely slapping sandwiches together haphazardly. I was making my way over to talk with him, but before I even had an opportunity to say a word, one of his classmates spoke up. "Hey Ben," he said. "Why don't you put a little bit more care in to that sandwich? Someone's going to eat it, you know."
Ben laughed at him as he looked around at his friends and replied, "What does it matter? It's not like I'm making a sandwich for the PRESIDENT." The kid who had spoken shrugged his shoulders and put his head down as all the kids standing within close proximity scoffed in agreement with Ben. So me, unable to hold my tongue, chimed in.
"Ben. How do you know you're not making a sandwich for the President?" I asked. "For all you know, one of these sandwiches is going to be consumed by a person who very well one day might be a leader of the free world. Or maybe the person that eats that sandwich will one day discover the cure to cancer - or world hunger - or formulate a plan for peace on earth."
Ten sets of eyes were on me as I concluded, "Ben, it's important that you remember this: Everyone that is born has a purpose. Greatness can come from anywhere. And if you are unable to make these sandwiches with respect for the people that will be eating them," I gestured to the chairs lining the walls of the cafeteria, "then it's perfectly fine with me if you go sit over there."
Ten sets of fifth grade eye brows were raised high as they dutifully returned to the task at hand.
Yeah. Yeah. I'm such a windbag. I know it.
My own children have long been at a point where I will talk to them about certain "global" issues and they just gaze off in to space, or blatantly walk away mid discussion. While I really strive to engage them in topics that are interesting and put them in to a context that they can understand, more often than not, I find myself talking to air.
But I'm not dissuaded.
One day last week, there was a picture on the front page of the Washington Post of a Bangladeshi man who was bathing himself in a Libyan river. He was pouring a bucket of filthy water over his head, as he soaked in stagnant water littered with trash. I showed the picture to my children and pointed out that we are so incredibly fortunate to have clean water and a safe place to live. Sure enough, the children were extremely interested in the picture. But, as it turns out, only because they wanted to go down to our creek and recreate the scene.
"Can we take baths like that, too?" they all asked.
NO. THAT'S NOT THE POINT.
"The point is ... children? Wait! Come back here......"
This past weekend, I took the children in to have their hair cut. While I won't say that I have officially retired my scissors, it was certainly time that they had their hair "corrected", since it's been at least nine months since their locks have been trimmed by a licensed professional.
(It's not that I'm BAD.)
(I'm just not very good at keeping even lines.)
Elizabeth was perched on a foam wedge to boost her up on the chair. As my little one sat there, with the big black salon cape draped across her small frame, she was chatting it up with the stylist. I wasn't fully aware of what they were talking about since I was distracted by watching two other children who were equally perched on foam wedges, but at one point, the stylist pointed to Elizabeth and said, "This one is going to be a lawyer when she grows up."
My daughter spun around and asked, "What's that?" After the stylist tried to explain what a lawyer is, Elizabeth shook her head and said, "No. When I grow up, I'm going to take care of the little children in the world who don't have anyone to love them."
My heart soared as the stylist clutched her hands to her chest and said, "Oh my goodness. That is the sweetest thing I've ever heard!" But my Elizabeth made it that much sweeter when she definitively added with a smile, "Everyone that is born has a porpoise, you know."