Our local elementary school has a seasonal “giving tree” in the hall where students can leave donations for the local food cupboard. A second grader and I were walking past it when my young friend asked, “Mr. Boomsma, what do you suppose would happen if every kid brought something for the tree every day from now until Christmas?”
Many will recognize this as a “teachable moment.” My adult brain considered whether we might explore the concept of sharing or take advantage of the opportunity to do some math. Her young brain didn’t wait. She asked a follow-up question.
“Do you think the school would explode?”
In a paranoid universe, we’d consider that language destructive–I’m quite sure if she and I had this conversation walking through an airport, we’d have found ourselves detained by airport security. And now, several weeks later, most of us are hurt, angry, and frustrated over a tragedy that reminds us–confronts us–with the reality that our imperfect world is a dangerous place that doesn’t always function in ways that make sense or suit us. Sometimes evil appears to triumph and it is easy to feel powerless in this world of uncertainty.
She might not know it, but I think my young friend understands power in ways that adults sometimes forget. She reminds us of the positive possibilities, even in the face of pain and sorrow. Let’s think about it. What would happen if each student brought one food item to school every day? I still haven’t done the math, but I do know that one can per student per day would mean a pretty big pile. And with what I know about kids, I’d be willing to bet that it would become competitive–some kids would bring two cans and challenge their friends. Hopefully, the school wouldn’t explode, literally. But it might be in danger of collapse under the weight of that generosity and sharing. All things considered, I’m not sure that would be destructive.
So in this time of sorrow and this season of giving, my friend has given us something to consider:
What would happen if everyone did one conscious, simple act of kindness and generosity every day?