The drama next door has proved to be excellent fodder for teaching my kids the benefits of discipline. I mean, nothing says “I do it because I love you” better than observing the neighboring teenagers swear all day long, come and go whenever they please, and threaten your dad.
“Do we let you get away with stuff like that?” I asked Ruthie the other day.
“Do you understand why?”
“Nobody loves that kid enough to correct him when he gets sassy,” I said. “Nobody bothers to tell him it’s wrong and disrespectful to treat people that way, and now he’s full of anger and tries to bully other people. We discipline you because we love you.”
People keep asking how I’m doing, knowing a stranger was in my house while we slept, six feet from my kids’ bedroom. Am I scared? Feeling unsafe? Angry? And the answer is (surprisingly): not really.
I’ve touched on all those emotions briefly, but for the most part I’ve seen God unfolding a bigger picture. He loves these kids, and he desires to discipline them so their hearts are turned toward wisdom and away from folly. As I see Bryan reaching out to these boys – talking to them like men, calling them to account, and telling them what is right – I see that God is using us to show them what it means to be loved through discipline.
And to clarify, I don’t think either of the neighbor kids or the 2-3 friends I see there daily actually DID the burglary, but their actions and activities invite a certain peripheral crowd into the neighborhood that they can’t really control.
Like the time their tires were slashed by a kid because they wouldn’t let him inside the house. They say that kid doesn’t come around anymore, but who knows. There are so many.
All this to say, we take precautions to protect our family, we keep a watchful eye, and we don’tÂ trust a word they tell us apart from their actions. But we love them, and we hold out hope, and we tell them the Truth as long as they’ll let us.
Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have fucked with? That’s me. -Walt, Gran Torino.
Things are going awry in my neighborhood, and I don’t plan to be a passive bystander. I’ve been watching kids come and go from the house next door for a year now, during all hours of the day and night. One by one, in and out, coming from one direction, leaving in another.
I can’t say for sure what’s going on in there, but I have my suspicions. Actually, I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on over there, even though all the grown-ups in that house think these are just kids being kids.
On June 8th we were burglarized while we slept, and my kids’ room was about six feet from the laptop they stole off the kitchen counter. The police tell us it’s the first owner-occupied burglary in five years, and it likely involves someone associated with the house next door.
This event was the tipping point re our tolerance of the shenanigans over there. I am no longer a casual observer, but a vigilant mama bear. Have you seen a mama bear around her cubs? She gets a little huffy when you look at her the wrong way.
The neighbors are obviously not excited about our sudden interest in their comings and goings. On Saturday one of the kids who’s over there a lot flashed his tattoos at Bryan, postured, and threatened him with some “you don’t know who you’re messing with” business.
(I’m shaking in my boots, kid. Your grandma dropped you off in the turquoise Astro van.)
Tomorrow I will be cleaning off my front porch and plunking a chair down next to a cooler full of beer, Gran Torino style. This is MY neighborhood, and you better believe I’m paying attention to it.
I think we were all stretched a little tight last week when Bryan was out every night at events, bookended by working both weekends. It was one of those occasions where it did no good for me to complain about it – whether out loud or in my heart – so I simply embraced the flow and made it work.
That alone was a miracle of Jesus-proportions.
It was Friday morning when I realized we both needed the car that day, because for some reason when he said “I have a video shoot,” it didn’t occur to me he can’t haul all his gear on the bus. I considered leaving the kids at home with our new house mate while I drove him into the city, then realized the commute would be a perfect stolen moment for the kids to see their dad.
I should have known they’d end up being roadies.
The kids made two trips with Bryan into the Maritime Events Center, hauling tripods and gear boxes while in their jammies. They felt important and useful, and I think it’s a memory they’ll store away for a long time.
Not bad, for a few stolen moments.
As for my own sanity, Bryan took me with him to an event on Wednesday. Friends kept the kids, I picked him up downtown, and we jetted across the lake to Mercer Island more than an hour before the event started – which was more than enough time to sit on the lazy veranda at Mercer Island’s Roanoke Inn, sipping cocktails and gazing into each others’ eyes.
I felt happy sitting there, relaxed despite the overwhelming week. Bryan had insisted I come with him, and I initially balked at the logistics of making this happen. But as I sat there, I realized it was his way of taking care of me, of loving me within the limitations of his schedule.
And then we were off to our event, and I got to watch Bryan in action and meet the great folks at the Jolkona Foundation.
So now the question is, can we sustain this life pattern – these stolen moments – for the next few months as work and travel pick up? Can we make this work? Is an hour here and there enough?
We posed these questions to our faith community last night – friends from our church who love us, know us, and ask us the challenging questions. These are the folks to remind us of our vision as a family and as a lover of Jesus. They will celebrate our successes with us, and speak up when they see our priorities getting out of balance.
To us, Life is a group effort. Bryan can’t lead our family without the family’s support, and our family can’t thrive without our community’s support.
So as to the question of sustaining through the Stolen Moments? I have no idea how we’ll fare, or how long we can plug along at this rate, or even how long we’ll need to. But it’s fun being in this together, and it’s comforting to know we have Community to put things into perspective.
It was beginning to look like I couldn’t participate in the Run for Children’s race today. Bryan had to be at an all day video shoot, which left me and the kids alone, and they’re too big to push in a stroller.
I thought of getting a babysitter, but quickly realized our one car would not get us both where we needed to go anyway. And then came the humbling reality that the $35 entrance fee was a tipping point in our start-up budget.
Things did not look promising.
On a whim I twittered what you see above. I figured, what could it hurt? It was one part joke, two parts hope, with a dash of low expectations. I mean, the chances of the right people reading it AND caring AND being able to help were slim, right?
Multiple people responded.
So now I have one friend loaning me her car, another friend watching my kids, and a third friend sponsoring my entrance fee. And even though I stepped out and asked for these things as if I were confident, I suddenly feel humbled by these acts of generosity.
Thank you, my friends.
Even though the race is over you can still donate to the Children’s Hospital Uncompensated Care fund, which provides children who qualify – like my friend, Zoe – with free medical care.
Last year readers of this blog pulled through and funded a new laptop for this family to make hospital trips (and their life in general) easier. I know my readers can pull through again by donating here to keep this fund available for families in need.
We finally have a very awesome renter moving into one of our spare rooms. Our house has been empty for a long time – too long.
I love having people live with us, because our renters often become like family. We’ve had a teacher, a medical school applicant, and a pilot, among others. They share our space, and they share our lives.
The rental space is not a seperate apartment, or even a basement room or otherwise removed from the family. Our rental rooms are on the main floor, right in the midst of our lives. I can’t hide, and neither can they. We see each others’ bed head and grouchy pre-coffee moods.
Sometimes they hear Bryan and I bicker, or at least catch wind that all is not well. The teacher would ask me about it, and I would speak honestly. Eventually I would get to tell her how we resolved it – she had a front row seat to Marriage 101 for Single People.
The pilot lived with us during my postpartum plunge into depression after Thomas was born – he would often rock the baby in the car seat with his foot and quietly play the guitar while I gathered my wits.
The med school applicant lived with us right about the time I started working out my anger and control and rage issues (just read my posts from 2005 – 2006 for background on that!). She had her own issues. She got me, and we spent long hours late at night in deep conversation about woundedness and Christ’s restoration (and there may or may not have been cigarettes and cocktails involved).
Yet, despite the heaviness of these times, I remember having so much fun with these people. And despite the exciting things they were moving on to, they were sad to leave us.
In conversation I’ve had people, including some family members, cringe at the idea of having someone “in their space.” I get it. It’s not for everyone. But in this age of “building community,” and in this culture of “the Seattle Nice,” I wonder how many of us put our money where our mouth is, so to speak?
I’m not here to judge, but challenge. Consider these lyrics:
By law all are wounded
That you may know
You may know one another
(Woven Hand, “Cohawken Road”)
I am wounded, but so are you. So why should I hide my wounds? Why not embrace my own and mourn with you in yours? Our circumstances may differ, but we have more in common than you think: fear, anxiety, frustration, selfishness, and the like. And when we know each other, the joys we share in life are so much richer, knowing the struggles we have behind them.
This open woundedness is how I embrace writing, and blogging, and friendship, and community – that we may know one another. Share and listen. Pour out and encourage. Need and provide.
This is also how I treat my physical space – it is not mine to keep all to myself, but it’s been given to me for sharing. And I find when I share my space – and my wounds, and my heart – I am nourished by joy through famine into laughter.
Five years ago in the middle of the night on July 3rd, Bryan and I woke suddenly to a smoke filled house. My heart fluttered in my chest as the adrenaline washed through me, and I rushed into Ruthie’s room to snatch her from her crib.
We quickly realized the fire was not in our own house, but in our neighbor’s house two doors down, and the smoke was drifting in through our open windows. But in those fleeting, disoriented moments, I thought we were about to lose everything.
The fire started from a bottle rocket that landed on the roof and smoldered for hours, set off by the teenager who lived there and his friends.
The next night that same teenager and his friends were out in the street lighting bottle rockets again, some of them landing in our yard. Baffled by this kid’s foolishness after setting his house on fire, Bryan went out to strongly encourage him and his friends to knock it off and start cleaning up all the trash they’d left lying around.
They mouthed off a little to him, but Bryan stands at over six feet tall, and he doesn’t mess around when it comes to taking care of the neighborhood. “This is our neighborhood,” I heard him say. “We live here – you live here. Your house burned down, dude. Clean this stuff up.”
His mother heard what was going on and actually came out to thank Bryan for talking to her son. She was a single mom and felt helpless that her son appeared to be hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’ lately.
On another occasssion a couple years ago we woke up in the middle of the night when our next door neighbors got into an argument at 3am. “TURN OFF THE TV AND GO TO BED!” we heard through the open windows.
“NO!” we heard in response from a whiney teenager.
The arguing went around and around for several mintues, and when it died down I could still see the flicker of the tv light through the closed blinds.
A few days later the teenage boy and girl were sitting on their front porch with some friends, and i saw Bryan walk over to talk to them.
“I heard one of you yelling at your mom last night – it woke me up. Who was it?”
Their eyes dropped sheepishly to the floor, and the boy squeaked, “It was me.”
“You need to listen to your mom, dude. She’s your mom. I think it’s pretty reasonable for her to send you to bed at 3am.”
At this point the mom – who was also a single mom – came out to see who was on her front porch, and asked what was going on. Bryan was all, “Just having a conversation with your kids about listening to you when you ask them to turn off the tv.”
Her countenance softened and she said, “Thank you.”
On neither of these occassions – or others like them – was Bryan condescending in any way, but actually held these kids to a common sense standard. It’s risky to get involved with people, particularly those we live around and can’t necessarily avoid. But it seems like in these two examples the moms really appreciated Bryan’s intervention.
I wish I could say we went on to be great friends with our neighbors, and that Bryan became a mentor to these fatherless teenagers. But I can’t. We are polite, we chit-chat at the mailboxes, but I still spend the majority of my time hiding within the comforts of my own established boundaries.
I keep thinking about this article by one of my favorite bloggers, Conversion Diary, about opening our lives to one another. Here is an excerpt:
When I was an atheist and hung out with mostly atheists and agnostics, the way we helped people was through controlled circumstances, systems that ensured that there was a clear line separating their lives from our own. We wanted — in fact, needed — our interactions with others to be safe and finite, with clear parameters on what we were expected to give.
This mentality makes perfect sense: after all, our biggest problems in life often come from other people. The more you allow someone else into your life, the more there’s the potential for them to screw it up. What if you adopt a child and they end up behaving badly and costing you tons of mental and financial distress? What if you mentor a troubled child and he ends up being a bad influence on your children? To use the example from that article, what if you’re very poor yourself and you offer to help a couple who has just become childless but they end up latching onto you and taking too many of your resources?
It’s too risky. The safest, most reasonable thing to do is to allow just enough people into your life so that you’re not lonely, and to carefully guard the intermingling of any other lives with your own after that point.
I can’t let go of the fact she describes the more closed behavior as something she observed from her atheist days. As a Believer in Christ I am to be defined by my love, yet I intentionally turn away from relationship most of the time because it’s too inconvenient.
Her post goes on to say,
But when you turn to God, you find that you have access to the very Source of infinite love, that, through him, you have more love to give than you could have ever imagined.
Most recently our family has befriended an 11 year old neighbor girl who loves to be at our house. She lives with her mom at her grandmother’s house, and there isn’t much going on there to excite an 11 year old. She would spend all day every day with us if we would have her, and frankly there isn’t really a reason why we couldn’t.
Except that quite often I’m not in the mood, or have time, or feel like it. But the truth is, the girl is a delight to be around, and I’m just afraid of opening my tightly guarded borders to unfettered access status. What if she wants to talk when I have Things To Do? What if she starts asking me advice about boys? What if … what if… what if?
It’s much easier and more comfortable to host crowded BBQs and planned play dates and to blog about living in community than it is to actually let myself be inconvenienced by others.
This week’s Link Love is inspired by a story I heard on KUOW recently while driving. It was the story linked below, called School Closure Jockeying.
For some reason, Seattle is closing down schools. I admit I don’t know exactly why (we live in the Renton district), but I think it has to do with budget shortfalls. An elementary school in a white upper middle class neighborhood in West Seattle was on this list to be closed, which obviously alarmed parents. They rallied. They raised their voices. They made t-shirts. Parents in West Seattle saved their own school by throwing an “under resourced” school under the bus.
They so much as admitted it on the radio – that they took advantage of their socio-economic status to influence the school closure decision –
AND SHE ADMITS: SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT LED ARBOR HEIGHTS TO POINT THE FINGER AT COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT GIVE ARBOR HEIGHTS AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS.
ARBOR HEIGHTS DOESN’T HAVE A MAJORITY OF FAMILIES IN POVERTY. COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH DO. POVERTY AFFECTS A SCHOOL’S POPULARITY, WHICH IS A FACTOR IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS. AND RILEY SAYS POVERTY ALSO AFFECTS HOW EASY IT IS FOR PARENTS TO ORGANIZE WHEN THEIR SCHOOL IS UNDER THE GUN.
Rainier Beach High School seems to be spared for now, but this saddened and angered me. I am saddened that children in these “under resourced” schools (which is the new code word for “at risk” schools) continue to face obstacles in achieving success. I am angered by the arrogance and conniving of the West Seattle parents, who disregarded the already fragile nature of “under resourced” children in “under resourced” neighborhoods.
I have only been involved in Renton’s public school system for four months, so I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. But I’ve seen a glimpse of this fact: children and families need neighborhood connections to succeed. This much I know.
Our school’s socio-economic demographic is very similar to that of Rainier Beach, which I suppose is why this issue concerns me so much. What follows is a timeline of stories from KUOW relating to education in Southeast Seattle. I apologize for the all caps in some places – I’m not shouting at you, but simply copied and pasted the formatted text from KUOW’s website.
Seattle’s Southeast Education Initiative and School Reform
An hour long discussion on how to draw neighborhood students back into Rainier Beach High School. The perception vs. reality of the school is discussed, as well as ways the district is working to increase class options and other programs.
This story aired September 2007. Little did they know at the time that all the effort and resources to help make this a more successful school would be potentially derailed by a group of parents and school board members from West Seattle – half a world away, in so many respects, from Rainier Beach.
“Schools are the responsibility of the entire community. If schools are going to be successful in Seattle it’s going to be because parents are at the table.”
“The extra curricular activities are not supported by the school district, they’re supported by the parents. And parents who are struggling economically do not have the time and resources to put into the classroom and to donate to the schools.”
Why parents bail on Southeast Seattle schools
GOODLOEâ€“JOHNSON: “I’m always interested in getting perspectives about why parents make choices and how we can be stronger in systems and if there’s things we need to look at that perhaps we haven’t thought of before.”
School Closure Jockeying
SHELLEY WILLIAMS HAS TWO KIDS AT COOPER. SHE WENT THERE WHEN SHE WAS A KID. SHE COMPARES THE CLOSURE PROCESS TO A BOARD GAME. AND SAYS A LOT OF PARENTS AT COOPER DON’T EVEN KNOW THE RULES.
WILLIAMS: “We have 6 parents I can think of right off the top of my head who have been in this country less than two years, and spent more than two years prior in a refugee camp. They don’t even know this system.”
SO SHE WONDERS, HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO ORDER Tâ€“SHIRTS, SHOW UP TO SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, GIVE PUBLIC TESTIMONY, AND TALK TO THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS?
High schools spared
THE CHOICE POLICY LETS PARENTS TRY TO GET THEIR CHILDREN INTO ANY HIGH SCHOOL IN SEATTLE. IT’S GIVEN SCHOOLS IN MIDDLEâ€“CLASS NEIGHBORHOODS HUGE WAITLISTS, WHILE IT’S DRAINED SCHOOLS IN POORER NEIGHBORHOODS AND GIVEN THEM STUDENT BODIES THAT MOSTLY LIVE IN POVERTY. THOSE SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN THE MOST VULNERABLE TO CLOSURE.
Everyone is looking out for themselves – the parents, their children,
Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting
This article came to my attention at just the right time. I was one of those pesky undecided voters. To make it worse, I’m a horrible decision maker. Regardless of how big or small the choice I have to make (chocolate or peanut butter? this school or that school?), I agonize over my options as if the decision I make now will make or break my entire life.
Some would argue the choice for president meant exactly that – life or death of a nation. But this article reminded me of where my ultimate hope resides. It reminded me that God is sovereign, and his love for us is not weakened or compromised by Man.
So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.
One mild evening this summer I sat on the front steps with a friend, enjoying the warm evening air while drinking a glass of chilled white wine. There was a party at the rental hall next door, and we enjoyed the backdrop of festive mariachi music coming from the open doors.
The rental hall is dark and windowless, which usually drives party-goers and their children out into the parking lot adjacent to my yard where it is cool. As I tossed a ball for Scout to catch, a group of children – boys – wandered over and pressed their noses through our front gate to watch.
The boys chattered with each other in spanish, which I donâ€™t understand, and they continued to point and smile at my dog. Since I didnâ€™t know what they were saying, I simply smiled back at them.
Soon a parent came by to shoo them away, but my friend and I both smiled and waved him off, saying â€œNo, no, itâ€™s fine, we donâ€™t mind.â€ The parent went off and left the kids with us, and I continued tossing the ball for Scout.
Eventually the boys wandered back to their party, and my friend and I went back to our conversation.
A little while later, I saw the boys creeping along our chain link fence, hiding behind a bush that protruded out into the sidewalk. Suddenly one of the boys ran up to the gate, threw a plastic fork at it, then ran back to his friends as it landed on the sidewalk.
â€œHey!â€ I called after him, coming through the gate and onto the sidewalk. The boys were running away, but stopped and stared at me wild eyed when they heard me call.
Softening my tone, I said â€œItâ€™s okay.â€ I waved them back and pointed to the fork. â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ I said again. â€œDonâ€™t throw this at me,â€ I said, pointing at the fork and shaking my head. I didnâ€™t know if they understood English. â€œTake it to the trash,â€ I said, pointing to the fork and waving it away with my hand. â€œDonâ€™t leave this here, por favor.â€
One of the boys walked over with droopy shoulders and got the fork, and I smiled at him so he knew I wasnâ€™t mad. â€œGracias,â€ I said. He and his friends walked away, and I waved cheerfully.
As I sat down next to my friend again, I silently congratulated myself for being gracious to the boy even though he was throwing his trash at me. Wasnâ€™t I wonderfully hospitable to my neighbor even though he was acting rudely? We have, after all, endured beer cans tossed into our yard, broken glass on our sidewalk, and young boys peeâ€™ing through our fence during many of these parties. I even found an abandoned pair of pants in our bushes once.
But as I sat down to write this essay, intending to go in a different direction with it, Iâ€™m suddenly struck with a thought – I realize itâ€™s possible the boy was trying to throw a fork for my dog to catch, the way he saw me throwing a ball. And like the detective at the end of The Usual Suspects, I flash back through the montage of clues in my mind with this new realization, reinterpreting the entire scene —
The boys who are mesmerized with a dog who catches balls, the boys who run away suddenly and return sheepishly, the daring boy who is chosen to bear the risk, the unsuccessful toss that was intended to go through the fence, the signs of defeat that I didnâ€™t embrace their efforts.
I am deflated by my tunnel vision, and I want to cry. How arrogant of me! Adorable boys were making friends with my dog, and I shooâ€™d them off! How confused they must have been with my contradicting actions – first smiling and welcoming them to participate, then scolding them when they tried. I wish I could go back in time and invite them in to play with my dog.
I feel foolish for not realizing their intentions in the moment. Obviously I was dealing with a language barrier, but I still kick myself for not being more observant. I allowed myself to define the moment by my assumptions.
And then I realize, this is Other-ism – racism, classism, cool kids against the nerds, whatever. This is how it starts – judging a person based on what you think you know about them. I made an assumption, and it was the wrong one.
Iâ€™d be curious to know about your experience with Other-ism. When have you felt judged? When have you caught yourself judging others?
I’ve been pondering over the issues of education and the inner city at great length since last Spring when I registered Ruthie for kindergarten. We are a white, middle class family living in a diverse community with lower class and working poor families. On more than one occasion I’ve heard my neighborhood referred to as “the inner city.”
75% of the kids at Ruthie’s elementary school qualify for free or reduced lunch. As a white girl, she is in the minority 17% of the population. There is a sign on all the doors leading into her school that reads, “This Is a Weapons Free Zone.” I shudder to think why this is even necessary to mention to kids under the age of ten.
I will admit there are times I considered transferring Ruthie to a different school – one with higher test scores and fewer kids on assistance – and even filled out the necessary paperwork. I wrestled with my ideals, because I never wanted to be that “white flight” family who sequestered itself from people who are different, who fled the “evils” of the inner city simply because I had the means to. My ideals told me I could be part of the solution, that if I stayed I could make a difference in my community. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure I was willing to gamble my child’s education to follow those ideals.
As a friend put it, “It’s kind of like the difference between reading the communist manifesto as a naive college freshman, versus actually living in the Soviet Union.”
In the end, we decided to stay in the school. For now. Someday I’ll write a post about the reasons why we decided to stay, but for now I just want to share three things that have influenced me the most over the last few months: a sermon, a podcast, and a television show.
It Takes a City to Raise a Child – Pastor & Author Tim Keller.
The community I live in doesn’t even come close to the dense urban environment of New York City, and neither does Seattle, for that matter. But I still found this lecture compelling since so many white, middle class families are fleeing urban areas in general for the seclusion and “safety” of the suburbs.
Keller gives three cons and eight pros to raising your kids in the city, and begins with the thesis that living in the city enhances factors related to kids embracing the Christian faith of their parents. As a teaser, I’ll list those positive factors here, but you really must listen to the 1+ hour podcast.
If you raise kids in the city, they will believe they are living in the real world, and will have realistic expectations of life. (i.e. “Friends” who work at coffee houses can NOT afford apartments that big)
It undercuts their self righteousness toward you and your faith. Kids want to believe their parents don’t understand the real world, but when they see you interacting with city life, they will have respect for you.
Your children will become more confident and self reliant, living in the city.
Your kids will be better at handling diversity, and will have more diverse friendships. The essence of suburbia is zoning – racially, economically, etc. There’s fewer people unlike you.
The city pushes the family together and creates more coherence between home, work, and school. Relationally it’s much more intense. Suburbia pushes everybody apart.
In the city, your teenagers will more easily see a Christianity they can envision and respect because the churches are filled with young people they can identify with (does your sunday school teacher have glorious tatts?).
You can help your kids start to process the real world by living in the city.
In general, kids raised in cities do not have same pressure brought on them to conform because it is so diverse.
Keller mentions several times that we all think the suburbs is the best place to raise our kids, but in reality it may be more polarizing to families.
Think about it: we all get into our cars and go in different directions each day; our commutes take hours away from our family life; when our teenagers have friends, they drive around recklessly in a car together; we live in communities with people who are just like us in every way; our children aren’t exposed to poverty unless they go on a mission trip; kids face an immense amount of pressure to conform.
I loved loved loved this lecture, and I especially loved that Bryan whipped out his computer for us to listen to it on a drive up to Bellingham on Labor Day.
Whatever it takes to teach kids – Geoffrey Canada & Paul Tough
This is an interesting discussion regarding some charter schools Geoffrey Canada began in Harlem, serving the needs of 8,000 kids in all areas of educational and socio-economical need. He talks about the failure of preschool and kindergarten programs because an at-risk child needs that kind of support throughout their entire education, not just in the early years.
He also discusses the lack of support available in the inner cities. In upper middle class schools, when there is an act of violence – a shooting, a murder, a suicide, etc – the school provides mental health professionals the next day to help support kids who are dealing with the trauma. In poor communities, kids often see and experience violence on a regular basis – in their homes, on the streets among their friends – but there is no regular mental health support for them in the schools.
He also discusses the need for school leadership who are firm but loving, who set clear boundaries and stick to them. His staff lives in the community, and interacts with the kids even outside of school. If a teacher catches a kid fighting, even if it’s outside of school that teacher will take action. Canada believes it takes a lot of adults acting in a consistent way and going the extra mile.
It’s a fascinating program, and I plan to read Paul Tough’s book on the project, titled, Whatever It Takes.
This is the best show on television, topping even The Sopranos for me. Season 4 in particular was breathtaking – both as an amazingly written drama and as an eye opener to the issues inner city schools are facing.
One of the things Geoffrey Canada said in the above interview on Fresh Air, is kids in inner city students can’t learn algebra if they’re worried about their safety on a daily basis. This is precisely the issue The Wire takes on through the storyline of a local middle school that is filled with kids whose parents use their welfare money to buy drugs instead of groceries, who sell all the clothes donated for their children to buy drugs, and whose neighborhoods are run by drug lords that “drop bodies” on a regular basis.
Through a specially funded program, ten of the school’s most poorly behaved kids are pulled out of their classroom into a special track of learning that becomes very controversial within the school district. The program’s success becomes tangled up in a web of political fire storms and bureaucratic red tape, and it’s heartbreaking to watch kids with great potential teetering on the edge of a very distinct precipice in their lives.
These are all the things swirling around in my head lately. I’m intrigued by it all as a mother, as a neighbor, as sociology major, and as a Christ follower. What is my role? What is the government’s? What is the Church’s? How do I keep my kids grounded while raising them in an urban setting? How do I give back to my community without acting like I’m swooping in to rescue the poor black families?
Again, I don’t exactly live in The Big City, but many of these issues apply to my community, and I found these resources very educational.
I’ve been blogging a lot less, lately, in an effort to focus more on my responsibilities at home. This has been good for my family life, but being a Stay At Home Mom can be lonely at times. Twitter helps me feel connected to internet friends – both far away and close! – without investing the time or brain power a well-crafted blog post requires.
For instance, a couple weeks ago I twittered through the Oscars along with several other twitter friends. We shared snarky comments about tacky dresses and commentary on acceptance speeches.
Twitter has become a huge part of my blogging schtick. You can sign up for your own twitter account here, and you can sign up to follow me here. You can update and read from your twitter home page, or you can set it up to update through your regular IM client if you use one.
Last night and this morning I saw rumblings on the Internet – on Twitter, to be exact. WhyMommy was receiving well wishes and prayers and good thoughts. This morning when I was awake before the crack of dawn, East Coast friend Mommy Needs a Cocktail IM’d me a link to WhyMommy’s blog (after IM’ing: I don’t even want to know why you are up at this hour), and she asked me to pray.
Turns out WhyMommy is receiving a double mastectomy today.
I checked out her blog, her story of cancer, and began weeping when I saw her children were only 1 and 3 years old. Such a scary experience to go through for everyone. Such weight on a mother’s shoulders as she attempts to guide her kids through it, while grieving and feeling fearful herself.
In the same way blogging brought light and clarity to me through grief and depression and anger, and in the same way it surrounded me with people who prayed and related and said, “Thank you. I thought I was the only one.” In the same way blogging expanded my universe to include all of you, those I call friends (the ones who don’t lurk, anyway), it seems WhyMommy has received comfort from the Internet as well.
Waiting. In waiting room, she Twitters. why must i wait in preop alone? and then, whymommy was wheeled into the OR a few minutes ago.
And now, someone I don’t even know, someone I never heard about until a few hours ago, has a new cheerleader because the Internet had her back.
If your family were to come on hard times, or were beset by a tragedy, or were somehow incapacitated, what would you do? How would function? How would you care for yourself or the others in your family?
I’m asking you, dear Internet, because you need people. You need call-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night friends. You need drop-your-kids-off-at-the-last-minute friends. You need here’s-dinner-and-a-few-bags-of-groceries friends. You need friends with perspective. You need friends who speak the hard-to-hear truth. You need friends who still adore your husband even when you bitch and moan about all the frustrating things he does.
When someone in my community of friends puts out the Bat Signal, more than enough help comes. I have sent out my share of Bat Signals, and I have answered the call of it, as well. Truth be told, I can’t imagine my life without these faithful around me, who believe in the need to help each other.
So I ask you, faithful reader, because I care: Are there people who will answer your Bat Signal? Do you trust in your community enough to put out your own Bat Signal? Are you paying attention to the Bat Signals calling for your help?