I have difficulty wrapping my mind around the insanity of forcing individual beliefs, ideology, and morality on others, and deliberately misrepresenting those you "disagree" with. Sadly, we live in an era where the person with the loudest, most outraged voice gets the most attention. Whether it is a dipstick politician (you know the descriptor I really want to use) actively building their base of support or the folks in that base who subscribe to the utter nonsense they are pedaling.
Hate and divisiveness sell. Generating fear around the "other" gets higher billing than acts of generosity and kindness. People are then emboldened to be judgemental and nasty - because - the powerful and influential lead by example with their spitefulness, small-mindedness, intentional misrepresentation, and fake indignation.
When a group of young teens understands LGBTQIA+ definitions and issues better than many adults in their lives or the folks who represent them in political office - we have a serious problem.
This past week, a few DRC Canton kids decided to create a new "ALL INCLUSIVE" sign on a black poster board for our "Chill Space." They were inspired by a very cool EQUALITY flag hanging in the North Star Teens' Common Room in Sunderland, MA.
They spent Thursday in the art room planning, painting, talking, giggling, and connecting - on a profound level. Later in the day, while they painted small flags representing various LGBTQIA communities to glue onto the sign, our twenty-year-old apprentice popped into the room to hang out - for a bit. She was generally uninformed and genuinely curious about the conversation around LGBTQIA+ and began asking questions. The 12-14-year-olds were happy to respond to her curiosity - with thorough well-framed (unsnarky) answers.
These Peeps inspire me every single day. They are kind, respectful, and openly willing to include everyone in their conversations and community.
Again I ask if these young people understand that offering kindness and compassion while embracing diversity in all of its forms can only make us smarter, stronger, and more resilient, and are the right thing to do, why is it so hard and confusing for some to comprehend?
Weekly Creative Meditation
Five-year-old E told fourteen-year-old V that she plans to open a doggie daycare at Deep Root Center and that V needed to help her make the sign. V, of course, complied - cause of cute puppies and the opportunity to paint said cute puppies... E did write and color in "dog" all by herself by copying it from an interactive veterinary workbook she adores.
From marketing and business standpoints - this idea is spot on. Practicality is another issue. We may need to invite this child to join the DRC board; she is fiercely original!
The action was non-stop at both Centers this past week.
Some early subscribers know I received my B.A. in Anthropology as a non-trad. It is hard to believe 20 years ago this May, I walked across the SUNY Potsdam quad in the beating down sun to accept that degree.
If you look back in the archives at some of these posts from nearly ten years ago, you will find many references to my Anthro geekiness. Today, I want to stroll down memory lane to revisit one of the first papers I wrote as an Anthro student in Cultural Anthropology with Dr. Stebbins.
We had read Coming of Age in New Jersey (or, in my case, skimmed it - because I never read any of my textbooks. The fact that I don't learn from reading is a discussion for another day.) As I remember, the class discussion centered on the distinct lack of an authentic, meaningful coming-of-age ritual - in this culture. The assignment was to create one and write about it.
I decided it would be exceedingly beneficial for all young people to spend significant time (live) with an elder in their family (or an elder who played a major role in their lives). My paper centered on - the dynamic mutually beneficial mentoring relationship between the young person and their elder. To put it simply, they would learn invaluable lessons - garnering wisdom from each other. This thesis came from my childhood experiences of spending nearly every weekend with my beloved grandmother, who shaped my life in immeasurable ways. (Unimportant side note: As I recall - I got an "A" on the paper and the class.)
Why this memory - now?
Over the past two weekends, I have had the enormous privilege of spending time with an important elder, in my life. I have been here not just as a caregiver and helper - but as someone, she trusts to share her life.
I am happy to coexist in her world - her doing her things and me doing mine - connecting - occasionally with a quick glance or a few words. I love to watch (make) her giggle over some bits of silliness that we both appreciate. She has spent her entire life nurturing others, and, as we told her, it is our time to do the same for her.
I stand by my thesis of over twenty years ago. If you have the opportunity to spend extended time with an elder - do it. (This is especially true for young people.) You will learn things about them and yourself that you never understood before. It comes with the added bonus of being changed and enriched beyond measure.
Weekly Creative Meditation
This particular DRC-True Story requires a backstory. On Thursday, E proudly brought in a "million dollar bill." He was convinced it was real. He told us it was his grandma's from a long time ago. Several kids tried to explain to him that it was fake and there was no such thing as a million-dollar bill. No matter what they said, he vehemently provided another reason it was real.
Then V looked it up and read aloud to the group that million-dollar bills were never printed by the US treasury. E said he didn't believe the internet. At that point, someone said, "so you don't believe the truth." E said he did not. And that is when V responded with no outward expression - "how very American of him."
Yes - most of these kiddos are very aware of current events and the world around them.
E, however, was oblivious to the reference and happily tucked his "million-dollar bill" back into his wallet with his $3 for skate rentals and continued about his day. Those who got it may have laughed a bit too hard at the absurdity of it all.
These kiddos keep us in stitches - all day - every day.
And finally - here are the photo galleries from this past week:
It has been a busy week. Therefore, I am sharing a short story from this past week that highlights our philosophy perfectly.
T had found a container of sight words handwritten on cards on the shelf in the Seedlings Room. He took all the cards out and copied the words onto blank cards. He was being very systematic and refused any help. (I will also note that this entire project was completed in the middle of the Seedlings Room floor while other kids were engaged and busy with their own activities.)
With no pushing or coercion on our part, T has shown a great interest in language and reading over the past few weeks - after being fairly indifferent. I anticipate huge strides over the next several months as he explores the amazingly complex world of written words and language - on his own terms.
Photo Dump from DRC Canton - lots of outside sledding action, cooking, baking, and a Kitchen Sink Science experiment making lava lamps.
And a Photo Dump from DRC- East - lots of action over there with two new members.
This DRC True Story comes from Q a brand new kiddo at DRC-East. I spoke with them via phone on Wednesday afternoon to take notes so I could write their learning plan - this quote was their response to my final question - is there anything else you would like to add?
We are happy you have joined the crew, Q. Welcome to DRC!
Two Notes of Gratitude
Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table to say "hi" and create art at the annual Kids Expo at SUNY Canton on Saturday. We had fun meeting you all.
In our current educational system, the concept of building a safe, supportive, inclusive, and vibrant community gets lost in the push for academic rigor. I will always argue that establishing an environment where everyone feels comfortable being themselves - (absolutely) has to be the precursor to scholarship.
I spend my days surrounded by kids who all have the agency to build their (very own) community. They understand that supporting each other with kindness and encouragement, in the end, helps them all.
In addition, DRC kids understand that the staff trusts and respects them - period - full stop - no contingencies. With that knowledge, they extend the same regard to their peers. And then, together, they feel free to explore the world on their own terms.
No, it isn't all rainbows and unicorns. You bet there are days that we get on each other's nerves and get royally ticked off. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, because the foundation of our community is solid - we talk about whatever pissed us off, and then we move forward.
This exact scenario happened this past Thursday - it was one of those bad-vibe days. Everyone was in a mood, and it felt funky all around.
E was feeling it particularly hard. He needed a fork to eat his lunch - so he stomped over to the utensil drawer and yanked it open. The force pulled the mechanism off the tracks, and the drawer fell on the floor with a crash - the front breaking off. Everyone in the kitchen stopped whatever they were doing in utter shock. It was silent for ten seconds. Then without any prodding, E bent down and started picking up the contents strewn across the floor. Without hesitation, several other kids joined him. No one criticized or nitpicked - they simply helped.
I filled the sink with hot sanitizing water while he transferred all the utensils. He swished everything through the water and placed them in the dish drainer to rinse with hot water spray. While he was doing that, we talked calmly about dealing positively with the consequences of actions - even when they are mistakes. In those few moments, he learned the people you trust and respect are the ones who will always have your back, even when you mess up - a life lesson that will remain with him forever.
Weekly Creative Meditation
As mentioned, Thursday was a crazy energy day at #DRCCanton. A came in from playing outside with the younger kiddos and pulled the snow out of his hoodie pocket with a huge grin on his face. This particular quote highlights how the DRC multi-age environment fosters content kids who happily engage in cooperative play and take care of each other - while building community.
We are trying to institute a Summer Program in Massena at our DRC-East Center that is free for the kids who live in subsidized housing. To do so, we need businesses and organizations to sponsor the program. Please share this information.
Registration for our Imagination Station Canton Summer Program - the last three weeks of August is open. Click the button to the google application form. Space is limited.
Enjoy these photo galleries from both Centers. Our kiddos were happy to be back after our mid-winter break.
And finally - one more way you can support our kiddos. Visit our Amazon Shopping List here.
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