Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be food addicts. {7QT}

Seven Quick Takes Linkup

Hi.  Have we met formally?  I’m Erin.  I’m a food addict.

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It seems like I’m having gallbladder problems.  I say “seems.” It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, acts like a duck, and responds to dietary changes like a duck, but they still want to ultrasound the bejezus out of me before cutting me open.  My reactive airways do not take kindly to the general anesthetic process, so, inconvenience and waiting and uncertainty aside, I can respect that.

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Assuming my gallbladder is the source of the quacking, there’s no denying that I put myself here.  I’ve now been obese for nearly half of my life, and mildly overweight for much of the preceding.

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During the “much of the preceding,” I lived in a world where food was both god and devil to the one side of the family raising me.  

Out of one side of their mouths: Eat this.  Eat that.  Don’t eat this.  Don’t eat that. You don’t wanna be fat.  Fat is ugly. Nobody wants a fat girl. 

From the other side: What do you mean, you don’t want to eat all these fatty, sugary foods?  You think you’re better than us?  You’re one of us, so you can’t say no.  Bad food makes bad people, but isn’t being bad so much more fun–not to mention delicious?

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I was also put through some rather barbaric early ’80s food allergy testing and resulting elimination diet.  Why? Because I was a pain in the ass–placed by God with people who really don’t like having their asses pained.  I mean, really don’t.  I don’t know if it was just the prevailing wisdom of the time or the family-of-origin culture coming from that one side of the family, but I was fed a diet devoid of sugar, dairy, chicken, chocolate, peanuts, and soy but full of “bad food makes you a bad person that nobody likes.”

Funny enough “good food” wasn’t making me that much more likable… but at least I was losing weight! Really, those extra 5-10 pounds were really making me so sexually unappealing, after all.  Nobody likes a fat ten year-old, after all.

When the crazy diet showed that, even without the sugar I was still a pain in the ass, the food restrictions were mysteriously if gradually abandoned.

The “bad food = bad person=bad food=fun” thing sure stayed.

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Back to my current innards.  I made the mistake of venting about my likely gallbladder probs on my personal Facebook page.  I got some sympathy and prayers–yay! I got a couple of recipes–nice.  I got at least one wisecrack–Hey, you’re my kind of commenter!

I also got a lot of unsolicited advice.  Eat this.  Eat that.  Don’t eat this.  Don’t eat that.  

Sounds familiar.  Painfully familiar.

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I am in some level of pain just about nonstop.  That pain is being somewhat relieved by some inconvenient, bland dietary changes.  At first I bristled at the inconvenience, the deprivation.

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I soon realized how good God is. Thankfully.  I always want to fast for Him and, food addict that I am, just never, ever, ever succeed.  Not for very long.  I’ve tried this.  I’ve tried that.  I’ve even tried this other thing.  None of it ever “took.”  Not even when I did it for God.

Now I’m living my penance for my gluttony, a penance as well for the people whose sins lured me into this addiction: a penance chosen for me by a God who knows I want to please Him but knows I’m too weak to choose and stick with a penance on my own.  I am miserable, and God is so, so good.  So good.

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It’s the Year of Mercy.  I’ve blogged a lot lately about how much more I need to live mercy in my daily life, in my reactions to others.

Now it’s my time to ask for mercy, for myself and all the other fat girls, fat guys, and food addicts out there.

Look, I know those people want to be helpful.  You’ve found something that helped you.  That’s awesome.  Praise the Lord.  But before you offer someone suffering the effects of addiction unsolicited advice, take a moment to think about what that person might hear.

“Eat this.  Make yourself less of a pain in the ass.”

“Don’t eat that.  Make yourself more appealing to me.”

“I don’t care about you.  I care about how you look in my eyes.”

“Your mind doesn’t matter to me. Just your appearance.”

“I don’t like you the way you are.”

“You are not adequate to me.”

“It’s not difficult.  It’s easy.”

“You’re weak.”

“All I see of you is your fat.”

“Your good qualities will never overshadow your sins.”

“All you are to me is your addiction.”

Oh, and from the people selling something:

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Again, I know you mean well.  I really do.  At least I hope you do.

I just encourage you implore you to pray before you advise, to have mercy on the addict’s pain before you advise, to seek to understand what the addict–what that particular addict might be suffering–before you offer unsolicited advice.

Maybe take a moment to realize that you can’t possibly know the pain that drove that person to seek solace in substance rather than in the God of all consolation.

Yes, Admonish the Sinner is a Spiritual Act of Mercy, and gluttony of any kind is a sin, but there’s a reason there’s a whole lot written on the art of fraternal correction and the conditions for offering this act of mercy are quite limited.

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I do covet your prayers.  I am offering my currently imposed penance up for not only my (numerous, visible) sins, but also for your invisible ones.

Thank you to Live the Fast and Neil Combs of A Body in Prayer for inadvertently throwing the above quotes into my path just when I needed them.  

Stand up for the unborn? I can’t even stand up for myself! {7QT}

Seven Quick Takes Linkup

It’s that time again: Seven Quick Takes Friday over at This Ain’t the Lyceum

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It’s the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Decision.

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Within the past 12 hours I’ve found myself in a situation where I either need to stand up for myself or lose a significant amount of money (money we paid to support a family member in an artistic endeavor when we could’ve spent it on, you know, replacing a couple of bald tires) in order to avoid having to rub elbows with my primary abuser for four-ish hours.

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One of the reasons I think abortion is still a thing is because we women keep being told, “You can’t do that.  It’s too hard.”

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Stand up to my abuser and tell her to leave me alone? Again? Because the first several times and some help from the police didn’t take?

I don’t understand why I have to.

In other words… I can’t do that.  It’s too hard.

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If you’re inclined to say, “I could never _____” [have an abortion, steal a car, go bungee jumping, eat sushi, whathaveyou], then there’s some part of your heart that is hardened against mercy towards those who could.

Seeing someone through the eyes of mercy is not the same as condoning sin, however great that sin might be.

Seeing someone through the eyes of mercy is how God sees each one of us.

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 I did nothing to put myself in my current conundrum other than maintain contact with someone who doesn’t really care about keeping me safe.

I feel alone, trapped, and helpless.  Again.

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Alone, trapped, and helpless is how women facing unplanned pregnancies feel.

It’s an old Method Acting trick, but I think it’s one we could all use as we walk the boards of real life:

  1. See another character experiencing something you’ve never experienced, never understood.
  2. Identify the underlying feelings that character is experiencing.
  3. Identify a time in your own life when you experienced those same emotions.

And walk forth with mercy.

I wish someone would stand up for me, say they’ll fight my demons for me.

I’m sure women considering abortion wish someone would stand up for them.

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Why don’t people see that that’s what happens at the March for Life? Any time someone posts a pro-life meme on social media? Any time someone offers abortion workers a way out? Women a way out? Any time someone stands outside a clinic and prays for her to be braver than she ever thought she could?  Any time someone says, “Hey, you know all those chemicals and all that debris you’re putting into your body to make it malfunction? Maybe there’s a less self-destructive way to handle that.

I never very rarely put stuff like this on my blog.  Or anywhere.  You know why? Because I’ve been taught through experience that nobody listens to me.  That nobody cares if I’ve been hurt, because that’ll make the people who hurt me feel uncomfortable.  You know what I grew up with?

“Ouch! That hurts!”

“No, it doesn’t.”

 

Satan has put a lot of energy and destroyed a lot of lives to convince me that I’m not credible enough to stand up for anyone–especially myself.

Then again… Jesus didn’t stand up for himself.

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He asks others to stand up for Him by standing up for the least of these.  

He asks us to stand up for each other.  

Please pray that I can receive the courage to stand up for those who need me.

Please pray that those who need it would receive the courage to stand up for me.

And I will pray for you to have the courage to stand up where you are called and for you to walk in the mercy you need to stand up with compassion as well.

The most obvious cause of bullying, like, EVAR

Finally jumping on the #WorthRevisit ing Wednesday bandwagon with this post about bullying: causes, effects, prevention. Go visit Allison’s Reconciled to You for more good stuff.

Erin McCole Cupp

I’ve heard from a handful of readers who have really responded to the issue of bullying as portrayed in Don’t You Forget About Me.  It seems the scars never really do go away.  As for myself, I don’t think I could’ve written the book myself if I hadn’t long since put my experiences as a victim of bullying into perspective, thereby forgiving those who’d hurt me.  A vengeance novel is far less satisfying to the reader, because it’s frankly about the writer and not about the shared human experience.  Anyway, I didn’t think I had any more work to do regarding that area of my past. I got healing, ultimate joy, compassion and a book out of it.  What more did I need?

Apparently, as a mom, I needed this article, which I stumbled across in the feed of a Facebook friend.  In all our efforts to curb…

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My Racist Halloween

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Yes, I know.  I should’ve written this in October, early November at worst.  Forgive me.  I was kind of busy trying to write something else. Real life, however, did not go on hold, and so there was a Halloween.

One of the things I didn’t like about Don’t You Forget About Me was that the cast of characters was, by needs of the conflict, not exactly diverse.  In fact, one of the things I (subconsciously) wanted to show in that story was that a lack of diversity leads  to unnecessary conflict.  No, I don’t have anything but anectdotal evidence for that, but that evidence is pretty strong.  Whenever I’ve been in a group that was too homogenous, that group found stupid things to fight about at best.  At worst, that group targeted the one person who fit in with the group the least and, in the words of DYFAM’s Sister Thomas Marie, set to “Lopping off the tall poppy.”

 

In my experience, if I’m different from you, you’re going to exclude me at best, bully me at worst, and there’s really no reason to hope for anything different.DYFAMCoverFrontForFlyer

So with that kind of conflict coloring the whole background of DYFAM, I knew I wanted at least one main character in the sequel to be not of European descent.  I started out wanting that because, well, that’s just the way the world is, and art is supposed to be a reflection of reality.  I hope you’ll all get to meet her soon, but this is how I met Emanuelle Claire “Mel” Valcour, Cate Whelihan’s estranged best friend from high school.  They’re reunited in NLMDA, and part of this book’s adventure is shared with Mel’s “baby” brother, Father Jean-Christophe Valcour.

Every writing project has its own unique lessons to teach me.  Mel has been a very good teacher.  I want to portray her honestly, so I’ve read a lot of articles on what it’s like to be a black woman, because, duh, I’m not.  Still… writing her is risky, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings.  Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings has kept me from developing better friendships with a wide variety of people–real and imagined, ahem.

Ahem.  Back to Halloween.

We live in the first country town right outside a more urbanized area.  Our block happens to have the area volunteer haunted house, for lack of a better term.  You know, that one family that goes all out for Halloween, fills the yard with zombies and graves and puts giant fuzzy spiders–I’m talking a 12 foot leg span here–on their roof.

 

And then, and then they have all the young adult kids’ friends come over and dress as zombies who jump out and scare the trick-or-treaters on Halloween! Yeah, they mean business across the street.  And it’s awesome.  Halloween is my third favorite holiday, but it’s a close third.  I love costumes and candy and being silly.  I love our neighbors for offering this to our community…ZombiesWantSugar

And the surrounding communities as well.  I was flabbergasted our first Halloween out here, coming from an apartment in Philly where we were lucky to get two trick-or-treaters to this neighborhood, where we go through at least seven giant value bags of candy each year.  People drive to our block from all over to trick-or-treat at The Scary House, and they’re not above stopping at our boring house, with the orange lights on the trees and the five jack o’lanterns.

But the manners.  The manners.  Or lack thereof. No “Trick-or-treat!” No, “Thank you!” Grabby hands in my two foot-tall stock pot filled with Dum Dums!  And then, the teenagers, teenagers, who had the gall to arrive in my driveway with… wait for it…

NO COSTUMES!

And the aforementioned lack of manners.  And… well, given the neighborhoods from which these ambassadors came, a lot of them had darker skin than mine.

I’m starting to realize there’s an inherent danger in growing up white after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  We’re kinda sorta raised to think that if we just act like the Dream has come true, then POOF! It has.  So, when these presumptuous teens showed up at my house with no costumes and no manners, I would…

Oh, Lord have mercy, this is shameful…

I would give them less candy.  Didn’t matter what color their skin was, mind you, but you got a full scoop of candy if you had a costume and made eye contact and said, “Trick or Treat!”  If you didn’t do any of those things, you got one piece of candy and an irritated smirk from me.

I thought I was doing the right thing.  The right colorblind thing.  Doesn’t matter what skin color you have! It doesn’t cost anybody a thing to have good manners!

Does it?

I have this weird… it’s not a belief, but it’s a wondering. I know fictional characters don’t have souls, but I wonder if they have guardian angels.  God made all the angels He wanted, so who’s to say He didn’t give the creatures of our imaginings their own guardian angels to watch over us, their parents?  Maybe it’s Mel’s guardian angel, or maybe it’s just mine, but someone did some guiding here that affected my heart in ways it so sorely needed.

First I ran across the article “What You Need to Know About 6-Foot Trick-or-Treaters.”  I immediately thought–not yet about race–just about the ages of the evasive, costumeless kids roaming our block and felt ashamed of myself for judging.

Meanwhile, researching, I read about the pressure a woman like Mel might likely feel to be a strong black woman, about what it is to be an angry black woman, heck, about what it’s like to have black hair.  Then while passing through the library, I saw an actual available copy of The Help (book, not movie) sitting on a shelf.  I read it in two days.  I saw how a culture could be built where to show what one color demands as “justice” and “manners” can come across as a weakness and vulnerability that the other color simply can’t afford to keep paying.

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Reading is a safe place to learn the things I’m afraid to ask real, live humans. Reading answers questions I didn’t even know I needed to ask.  Reading the personal and private rather than the newsworthy and violent was exactly the way to break my particular heart in just the way it needed to be broken–broken out of a sense of justice that hasn’t actually been gained yet, broken out of a make-believe world where we all have the same privilege.

We haven’t earned your dream yet, Dr. King.  To act like we have would be a lie.

So Halloween 2015 came.  Costumeless kids showed up with bad manners and plunged grabby hands, many darker than mine, into my stock pot.

This time, I picked up an extra scoop of candy to add to theirs.

I see now that too many others in our neighborhood would be holding back the sweetness on those kids who didn’t perform to our privileged expectations. They likely wouldn’t have mercy on the non-white trick-or-treaters, because we’re all supposed to be the same, right? Nobody needs any extra mercy, we don’t care how much you’ve already been kicked around before you showed up in our driveways! So in went the extra scoops.

“Have a little extra.  Happy Halloween.”

And I’ll say it, the thing that made my Halloween so racist: Yes, I gave the surly black teens more candy than I gave the surly white teens.

At first.

Because once you start thinking that people who don’t look like you might need wounds salved that you can’t see, you start realizing that everyone  has wounds… that everyone needs a little extra candy sometimes.

I think I got more “thank yous” this year.  Maybe.  I’m not sure.  I know I ran out of candy a bit earlier than usual, but I deserved to.  Part of being Catholic is believing in the efficacy of reparation, that when we sin, if we truly repent, we naturally want to make things better than they’ve been–than what our sins and self-righteousness made them.

I know our whole world needs to do better when it comes to having compassion on people whose lives have been tougher than ours and, as a result, encourage them to be tougher than suits our precious preferences, thankyouverymuch.  I feel like that extra candy in the shopping bags and held-out shirttails wasn’t very effective, though.  I’m also stark scared that someone is going to point out to me that my well-intentioned act of mercy was just another ignorant thing I did from a place of clueless privilege.

(Note–this post is teaching me how to spell privilege off the top of my head, without relying on spellcheck.)

I know I still have a lot to learn about being kind to everyone, that fair isn’t always merciful, and that if I’m striving to be the face of Christ in a faceless world, I’m going to hurt and I’ll need to give more and I’m going to make mistakes.  But I have to have faith that the desire to please Him does in fact please Him–because if I don’t, I’ll just hide again and shut my mouth and never click “Schedule” to have this post show up in your feed on the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday (Observed).

We have not earned your dream yet, Dr. King.  We have more work to do.  We paler people have more trust to earn.  We have wounds to heal.  We have repairs to make.

And I still have more to learn from Mel.

And I guess I have more candy to buy in 2016.

Be Heroes: Modern Love vs. Year of Mercy

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Image courtesy of “The Thin White Duke 76” by Jean-Luc Ourlin . Uploaded here by Auréola. – originally posted to Flickr as David Bowie. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – 

This post has been percolating for quite a while.  If you’ve read Don’t You Forget About Me (or even just the reviews), you won’t need much thinking to figure out that music is an important part of my life–and not pure, holy music by Matt Maher or Audrey Asaad, either.

When I first returned to the faith of my baptism, I’d come from months of trying really, really hard to be a fan of CCM: Contemporary Christian Music.  And while a lot of the words were nice to hear, the music didn’t necessarily speak to me.  With the exception of Rich Mullins, it’s nothing I still listen to now.

“Don’t let the Devil have all the good music!” I  heard.  So I tried, but given the choice between Echo & the Bunnymen and Phillips, Craig & Dean… sorry.  Jesus may have saved me, but if I said I’d lost my way, would you sympathize? Could you sympathize?

I asked God to change my tastes, knowing full well He has the power to do so.  But He didn’t.  So here I am, downright afflicted with an ear that loves anything from blurred lines to the center of the hollow moon. I’m careful with what I let linger in my mind (the former gets the station changed; the latter… well, if it’s on the radio, it gets bleeped, so I let it play).  But I still worry about the state of my soul.

The state of my soul.

The state of my soul.

The state of my selfish soul.

So while it did occur to me a few years ago to offer prayers for the soul of Ian Curtis, I didn’t really extend those prayers to anyone else.  Then a few months ago, someone in a Catholic blogger FB group asked if it was weird to offer prayers for the soul of Kurt Cobain. Of course it isn’t, not if I’m praying for Ian and his family.  After all, dollars to donuts, neither of those people ran in circles where folks are including them in their rosary intentions.

So when Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots died this fall, I was pretty comfortable praying for his soul.  I was even contemplating having a Mass said for him (announced? maybe…) when I found this letter from the mother of his children.

Our once sweet Catholic boy refused to watch the kids participate in Christmas Eve plays because he was now an atheist.

“Once sweet Catholic boy.”  So… he might have people saying Masses for him?  People not making the Entertainment section, but still, people.

But why didn’t I think to pray for him before he died?  I’m a child of the grunge era.  I liked STP well enough.  Maybe if I had focused less on being a Good Contemporary Christian Music Fan and more on the people making the music I liked… I could have fasted and prayed and Noah and Lucy would still have a father here on earth.

I don’t know.  We’ll never know, I guess.  And now, David Bowie is gone, too.  Without a single Rosary from me.

The Catholic definition of “love” (courtesy of Aristotle first, then Aquinas) is to will the good of another.  God has been waving this musical flags in front of my ears, begging me to love people who very likely have turned from Him and written Him off.  And I’ve been sitting here, tentatively pulling my fingers out of my ears, saying to myself, “Oh, just one more song isn’t gonna hurt me.”

Dumbass.  It hasn’t been about me.

It’s the Year of Mercy.  We are asked to focus on how much God loves everyone, everyone, no matter how much they look like they don’t need Him.  So here’s the dumb thing I’m gonna do to celebrate the Year of Mercy.  I’m gonna have Masses said for David Bowie and Scott Weiland and Ian Curtis.  I’m also gong to have Masses said for the conversion of other souls still walking among us–souls that, frankly, look irrevocably hardened to my eyes, but as Simcha Fisher said,  generosity to one’s audience can be an act of charity, of virtue open to grace; and as all faithful Catholics know, we cannot know another’s soul.

So, Henry Rollins, you’re getting a Mass said for you before 2016 is out.  You too, Ian McCulloch.  Aaron Bruno? Dave Grohl? Heck, if you’ve ever played the Doctor, you might get a Mass, too.  (I’d keep naming names, but I just had steroids injected into my elbow, and while I’m offering it up for all these folks, I’m also a flesh & blood woman for whom Tylenol and ice only go so far.)

So that’s my Modern Love: getting celebrities who don’t know me from Adam into heaven.  If it doesn’t work (free can be a b1tch sometimes), then I’ll at least have some guardian angels joining me at my individual judgment who can hopefully say, “See how she loved them?”

Loved them.  Not their music.  Them.

Any other names you want to throw onto my list?  Pray for them.  Ask me to pray for them.  And we could be heroes.  

“And may God’s love be with you.”  

Let me know, below, on FB, shoot me an email, whatever works for you (but a reply might take a while, see above re: big needles in my elbow.)

 

Homeschool Month of Service: 3 Ways Service Learning Improves Kids’ Attitudes

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Our first two Januaries as a homeschool family were so miserable that I very nearly threw in the towel.  The first year, the kids just did not want to be bothered to learn anything.  They fought me and cried over just about everything.  When I asked for advice from the veterans, I got everything from have them repeat scripture verses until their attitudes change (well-meaning advice but, frankly, fruitless in our house) to, “Take them on field trips!”

I managed a few field trips here and there–the weather wasn’t so bad that year, after all–but when it was time to come back to the books, we only had more fighting and crying than before.

The next year I thought I was so wise.  “Perhaps they’re just not engaged in those measly field trips.  Perhaps we need to really WOW them to make them happy enough to learn!” So guess where Santa sent us for the first part of our second homeschooling January:

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Problem solved, right? I mean, they went from the indulgences of the Christmas season to a nonstop delightfest in Central Florida’s International Temple of Juvenile Hedonism.  Then I was shocked–shocked!–when we came home and nobody wanted to start learning again.  Was that not enough field trip for them?  Didn’t they get surfeited on fun in order to get ready to learn again?

“Oh, honey,” I want to tell my 2013 self, “it just doesn’t work that way.”

So here’s what we tried last January (weather dragged it into February) and what we’re doing again this January (we’ll see what weather does to us this year).

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Discover a world without their luxuries.  Last year I gave First Shift (then 5th grade) a list of the world’s 50 poorest countries, told each to pick one, then research and answer 20 questions about that country: Where do they get their water? How often are their meals? How old are girls when they get married? Do they have roads, hospitals, internet access?  Do they have schools?  What’s the average household income, life span? Why is life like that in this country?  What would you do to change things?

They’re nerds, so they were both excited to learn new things independently (read: computer time), but as they delved further into the project, the more teachable moments came forward.  For instance, one morning they were complaining about having to share table space and a math book.  I had the opportunity to say, “If you lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, would you even have a math book?”  Their jaws dropped.  Then they closed their mouths and got to work.

Over all, they now seem more appreciative of what they have and less demanding for more.  This project taught our kids to see everything they have as gift–even homeschooling.  

 

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Discover the concept of both-and.  There are plenty of people who say that we shouldn’t look abroad for people to help when we have a whole country of need here in ‘Murica.  With that in mind, we did do a number of hands-on service projects locally.  One of those projects brought us to a local food cupboard for a tour and donation sorting.  We saw their industrial-sized refrigerators and freezers, their new kitchen for teaching cooking and canning classes, their rooms lined with shelves for nonperishables.  We had the opportunity to ask what our tour guide thought it would be like to have a food cupboard in sub-Saharan Africa.  She acknowledged that not only would they not have the same kind of infrastructure (no electricity for the refrigeration), but they also would not have people around who were affluent enough to have anything to donate in the first place.

Yes, there is real need here, but there’s also more desperate need elsewhere.  There is no reason we can’t reach out both near and far.  This also showed our kids that there’s good reason to learn not just local geography and history but global as well.  

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Discover the actual faces around you.  We were lucky to have Second Shift in preschool one day into the afternoon so that I could take First Shift to a local homeless shelter where we served lunch.  I don’t know why I was surprised, but the three of us served alongside a couple of guys there for court-assigned community service.  They didn’t look much like the people we see on a daily basis out here in East Cornfield, where the fields are brown and the manure is fragrant, and up until recently the closest thing we’ve had to diversity is a mix of both Amish and Mennonites.  But we were all helping others together, which showed us all that the people who help don’t have to look a certain way.

Moreover, the people we were helping didn’t all look a certain way either.  Some people wore the expected uniform: tattered clothing, many layers and an overstuffed backpack.  Others, however, didn’t fit the preconceived notions: polished shoes, ties, a nice purse.  Just because people can afford to dress well enough to keep their jobs and maybe pay rent and child care doesn’t mean they can afford their daily bread on top of it all.  You can’t tell by looking at someone whether or not that person could use a bit of mercy.

What do these examples do for our homeschooling?  A student who sees an adult helping others can see herself helping others, too.  A student who sees an adult asking for and receiving help is given the gift of humility, and nobody learns anything without humility.  

The most vital job of education is to teach children to become more fully human. The benefit of focusing just one month out of the twelve on serving others is that it make serving others part of our family culture.  When a friend had surgery, it’s no big deal to bring her lunch.  When an elderly family member has been laid up for several months, it’s not a shock that we go over to his house and clean the bathroom and kitchen.  When St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s feast day comes around, nobody complains that we’re skipping recess so we can bring Thanksgiving fixins to the food cupboard along with flowers for the workers there.

FoodCupboardFlowers

It also makes it less of a surprise that we serve each other in our family: whether it’s through putting laundry away, scooping the cat litter, or completing a math assignment without complaint.

It’s a little late in the game, but I’m finally working on our January 2016 plans as we speak.  I have calls in to the animal shelter, a local Habitat for Humanity, the county ARC, and we’ve started saving money to buy much-needed play doctor kits for the local children’s hospital.  The 6th graders will be researching life for the poorest of the poor in the United States–those on Indian reservations.  We’re looking forward to it, too–more than we would be to an new math book and a new grammar and writing kit.  However, the discoveries we make in service lay the groundwork for the book learning, because those discoveries show our kids–and me as their teacher–the real value of the books.  They’re tools to help us make our world more beautiful.

Have you ever suffered a case of “the Januaries” (or maybe even “the Februaries”)? What’s been your best remedy?  What are some ways you have seen service help your family, either on the giving or the receiving end?  What have you and your children learned as a result?