About a week ago, we had the opportunity to attend a birthday party for our three year old friend in a neighborhood very different from ours on the west side of Chicago. We stuck out like a lone macadamia nut in a chocolate fudge cookie. We listened to rap music, watched some amazing dancing, and learned new ways to celebrate with those who have become dear to us.
About half-way through the festivities, two little ones from across the hall showed up at the front door. It was open, but they stood outside the frame. In their hands were little white convenient store bags with two for a dollar hot cheese puffs, and a blazing blue raspberry drink. They wanted to join the party, but were probably told not to show up empty handed. After about twenty minutes of luring, we got them to come in and sit near us to chat and eat their “dinner”. I was practicing my open-ended questions and listening skills, per my weekly reading assignments when my youngest said “Mom, all the other kids got a hot dog, these kids should get a hot dog, too”. So she quietly went to the host and asked her if she could get two more hot dogs. She gave them to the kids and they stared at them confused. Figuring that they probably just wanted ketchup, she asked, and of course, they said yes. They touched the ketchup with their fingers and tasted it, then each one ate their entire dog and smiled with satisfaction.
This instance reminded me of a project that was done at a workshop some friends of mine attended on the south side of Chicago. They were divided into three groups and were each given a bunch of tooth picks. They were then asked to build a tower as high as they could in an hour. After working for about a half an hour quite unsuccessfully, one of the groups was given tape. They went to town, furiously and happily working as fast as they could, knowing they were going to win this. The other groups slowed down their work, envious of the tape that was given to the first group. One group decided to completely stop working, knowing that the group with the tape was going to win anyway - what’s the point? No one asked for tape from the tape group, and no one offered tape to those without. One group obviously won, one group tried and failed, and one just gave up knowing it was a lost cause anyway.
If a child shows up hungry, they should be fed.
If someone is trying to build something without tape, they should get tape.
There’s a song out right now by Matthew West entitled “Do Something”. In it, he remembers a time complaining to God about all of the poverty and problems in this world - asking God to do something about all of it. God’s reply is simply this: “I did, I created you”.
So, if an eight year old can do justice by seeing something that's not right and using what she has, or has access to - to do something about it, I think we can, too. Sometimes, all we need is tape or hot dogs.