Three Things Thursday 4 — Sixth Graders, Chemistry and Sharing

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This is my weekly series about enriching our Mind, Body and Soul; or a recap of what has happened to me which enriched mine; or a chat about products I like which enrich those essential elements to our wellbeing.

Mind: Serendipity cloaked as a missing sixth-grade classroom science project directive

Yesterday my middle son, Thing 2, needed me to bring in ingredients to make bread. His class was running a science experiment, “The Chemistry behind Baking Bread.”

The night before, he said, “Oh, I just need a couple things.”

“What things?” I asked.

“A bowl. Or some yeast. Maybe a wash cloth. Just that.”

“One of each only, all of them? So one loaf or is everyone making their own bread?”

“Yeah. Whatever you have.”

“Honey, I saw a paper about bread baking, but I haven’t seen it lately. Is this about that paper? Do you know where it is?”

“No. I just need a bowl.”

I let it go. This is how he can be sometimes. It’s not shame or indifference, it’s something else. Oh yeah: puberty.

Yesterday morning, he called me from school. “Mom, can you bring in that stuff for the bread? Or … I just need a bowl.”

“Hon, where is the sheet? You must need more than a bowl.”

“It’s in the playroom.”

This is our playroom:

299365_2367926797535_4563849_n

I didn’t find it. But I did in another room and here it is:

Just as it should be.

Just as it should be.

So because I’m off Facebook for Lent (except to share this post with the parents of the class because I set up an FB group for them), I had time to kill. I gathered all the stuff, brought it to him at school and ended up staying to help out. I am so glad I did. Those kids are so cool.

I opened bags of flour, gave everyone a tablespoon of salt, helped mix the dough, touched shortening (uch! I can’t believe that stuff exists) and everyone had a great time.

bakers

Here are just some of the kids in one of the several classrooms kneading and mixing. They made enough bread for each of them to take home two loaves, one for each teacher and one for the charity.

These teachers scheduled the day to the minute. When we were finished kneading, it was time for lunch. T2 invited me to join him, he’d “buy” me lunch using his card, but I demurred. I wanted to clean the dough out of my hair and off my clothes and blow the flour out of my nose.

Before I left, I asked the teachers if they needed anything else. They did: they asked me to deliver the bread to the food bank mentioned in the crumpled directive above. I was happy to do so, “but the shelter has specific hours, so you need to check out the website…” Ok. The delivery was going to have to wait until today.

There has been a tugging in my heart to be more helpful to our community and I leapt at the chance to have a “good reason” for getting involved. (As if simply breathing and being of sound mind and physically capable isn’t enough.)  

Body: Chemistry as Whole Wheat Bread

IMG_0202

This is the bounty of bread the kids made. Each kiddo used probably an entire roll of aluminum foil to wrap their loaves. We brought about 40 loaves.

It’s a lot of work to make bread and many of the kids were talking about the arduous nature of the stirring and the kneading amongst the many inquiries of whether it was “time yet?” to bake it. All of them came away from the experience of wanting to do it again.

When I entered the school later on to fetch the bread, the front hallway smelled so good. It reminded me of the Italian bakery near  my childhood home in Buffalo, NY; that smell can mean only one thing: healthy delicious food.

Soul: Sharing the Bread with the Homeless

My youngest son is sick today. Shocker, I know. He has the sniffles, but I couldn’t not make the delivery. I promised the teachers as well as my Spirit it would happen. So I warmed up the car (it’s 28˚ and windy today), wrapped Thing 3 in a blanket, strapped him into his seat and invited Murphy to come along so he could keep T3 company while T2 and I dropped off the bread.

As long as he left the bread alone, he'd live to see another day.

As long as he left the bread alone, he’d live to see another day. He worked very hard and he didn’t touch it.

I had every intention of bringing T2 inside the shelter with me. I didn’t want to beat him over the head with the concept that he’s living an extremely fortunate life. That homelessness doesn’t always look like haggard and scary people wrapped in plastic bags sleeping on grates outside the White House. That homelessness and poverty and dysfunction look like you and me. It is clean, shaven, wearing a fresh shirt and a sometimes ready but weary and worried smile.

When we pulled up, I had to wrestle Murphy out of the way for the box of bread. T2 almost collapsed under its weight while I clicked on the key fob to lock my child and dog in the car for a few minutes. I had my trepidation: a child locked in a car outside a homeless shelter. But I believed in the Good that would overcome the Fear. I was doing the right thing. He was sick and T2 really needed to see where this bread was going. He needed his eyes opened. And I didn’t know it, but I needed my heart softened too.

When we opened the door to go in, it was plastered with flyers about masses, prayer times, AA and NA meetings, mental health counseling, shower availability and donation needs. I was humbled immediately. T2 is too young to understand the insidious domino effect that a bad step can have on the downtrodden.

We were greeted with smiles and gratitude and a plea to tour the place. I explained I had a child in the car, but the female minister won me over with her warmth and reassurances. I also wanted T2 to see what was going on in there. The entire place is the size of a 7-11 or a dry cleaner store. The room was almost packed; I would guess there were about 45 people in the public room and maybe 10 in offices or in counseling.

As I explained in a note to my best friend today,

that homeless center… DUDE. it’s the place. i think i’ve found our charity. they do a lot there. i don’t think T2 has been spiritually altered, but it had an impact. they have a room the size of your office for a chapel with post-card-size pictures of the stations of the cross on the walls, an assortment of odd chairs for people to sit on and pray; a gorgeous mahogany cross donated by a man who also used the same wood to make some tables for the center because that’s what they do: God is in the tables. they are nondenominational, but clearly Christian oriented without any head-bashing with a bible. they have a laundry center where you can bring one load a day and they will wash it for the homeless; they have storage room filled with paper plates, napkins, fritos and chips and coffee and powdered creamer. i said i had some blankets and she said she didn’t need them anymore because hypothermia was almost over… i loved how she was very frank but kind about it all in front of T2. she said, “because hypothermia is ending soon, the people can go back to the woods and [get this]: they bring back the blankets for someone else…” the homeless have a sense of charity. they have computers for people to look for work (i was thinking we should get our Dell up to snuff and give it to them…) when someone applies for a job, a special line rings and they don’t answer “homeless shelter” they just say, “hello…” so the pride thing, as you know, is very important. they had free mental health counseling. the director’s office looked like our offices… papers everywhere… there were a couple women there, mostly men, but they looked so sad. a very elderly man was giving a younger man a haircut. there were young men, early 20s there, offered to help me with the bread; a larger middle-aged man was reading a book to a table full of people who were listening; it wasn’t a bible, it was probably a self-help book or heck, maybe even a story… i was blown away; my heart sang and melted at the same time.
i have a pamphlet for you. wow. i am going to write about this. i can’t help myself. heck, i’ll probably just copy and edit what i shared with you.
we are so lucky… i know you know this.
xoxoxoxo

When we got back into the car, I asked T2 what he thought; if he’d learned anything, if he had any feelings. He said, “Yeah. I am lucky. There are a lot of sad people in there who have nothing. We should give them an iPad and some of our chips we don’t like and maybe a book or two. I don’t think they’d like any Legos…” I think he’s getting it…  We will go back with all the kids to teach them to help their fellow man. I will honor the vibe I picked up from a couple people in there, I’ll never leave my child out of my sight when we work there, but this will be good.

So that’s what we did before 10am today.

So… yeah.

Click on the red link for last week’s Three Things Thursday.

Thank you.

10 responses »

    • yes. i forgot to include what T2 said when we left. he was sad and touched. he didn’t think they’d like any legos, but he wanted to give them some of our books or chips. it’s hard for kids to get it… these people have no home to store the legos. but he’s getting it.

  1. This is such a great story. I keep thinking about how just making yourself available led you to this amazing, life altering experience. You are living your life with your heart and eyes wide open!

    • I guess I am aren’t I? If there’s one thing I’m always trying to do, it’s make lemonade. The lemons from yesterday were already sweet though, weren’t they? Thanks for saying so, Lil.

      I am so grateful to be home for the boys now… It’s moments like these that I can take for granted. Yesterday was a gift, well, they all are, aren’t they? (Even the so-called lousy ones.)

      I have a friend in California who is in her 6th year of remission from aggressive Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and she has two rules I try to honor: 1) replace “have to” with “get to” and watch the change happen in your life and 2) see what happens when you open doors. She has one of the most unfailing faiths and optimism I’ve ever experienced. She swears it is what saved her.

      I have a third rule. I try to replace “but” with “and” whenever possible… It helps.

      Xoxo

    • Thanks, Mary. I felt God in that place. I’m a recovering Catholic — I love the traditions of the faith, they bring me comfort, but I disagree with some of its policies. Being in the homeless shelter connected with me. I feel very fortunate to have been asked to deliver that bread. I had the last piece of our loaf this morning. I toasted it and painted it with butter and then some honey. I ate it with my tea as I scanned the paper this morning before taking the kids to school. Just those five minutes felt rejuvenating and decadent. My other sons are interested in checking out the shelter. It feels good to do good.

      I appreciate your comments so very much. Thank you. 🙂

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