After Msgr. Gregory of Mustard Seed Communities spoke at all our masses this weekend, I thought I’d ask the middle schoolers what they thought about it and if they wanted to help somehow. The conversation went something like this:
“So, who heard Msgr. Gregory at mass this weekend?”
I was greeted by a chorus of, “I didn’t go to mass this weekend”.
(Insert tangent of, “I know you’re in sixth grade, but you need to remind your parents how important it is to take you to mass on Sunday. I'm sure you’ve all heard it.)
“Well, if you didn’t hear Msgr. Gregory for yourself, he talked about the children that they take care of in Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe who don’t have enough to eat. There’s a program where we can support them called Sustain a Life”.
At this point, a fifth grade boy excitedly raises his hand and blurts out, “Miss Alison! You know how you can buy a star? We could BUY a poor KID!”
This idea is met with great excitement. A sixth grade girl chimes in, “yeah! We could keep it here in the youth room. They could sleep on the couch and you could be it’s MOM!”
This is not going the direction I had hoped, but thinking it was still salvageable, I tried to bring them back to the reality of the situation, asking, “well, that’s really nice of you guys to want to take care of a kid, but don’t you think they’d miss their family, living in the youth room?”
The kids stare at me, blankly. “No”, they all say.
I persist, “You wouldn’t want to leave your family and live in the youth room, would you? Even if you had cool stuff, wouldn’t you miss them?”
Again, a blank stare, “no.”
I have a suggestion for them. “Well, guys, we can’t keep a kid here” (insert round of disappointed sighs) “but we can send them money each month to help feed the kids in Zimbabwe. What about if, for the next month, instead of drinking Capri Suns, we drink water and send the money to feed a child in Zimbabwe?”
“You mean bottled water?” they ask.
“No, that still costs money. You’d just drink from the water fountain”, I explain.
“No, I don’t think so…” they all answer. At this point, I’m rapidly losing faith in humanity and, specifically, the 6th grade. “You guys, when you die and Jesus asks you how you took care of each other, don’t you want to say that you gave up Capri Suns so kids can eat?”
“Well, maybe if we could have hot chocolate instead?” they propose.
Then, Mr. “Buy a kid” remembers something. “Miss Alison! You can sponsor a puppy for $15 a month! And they send you a hoodie and a tote bag! That’s even cheaper!”.
I sigh. “You know what guys, let’s just put in a movie.”
I realize that sixth graders who have grown up on Hilton Head have a long way to go when thinking about children on the other side of the world. So, my question is, what have you found to work in teaching kids empathy and compassion for children they have never met or seen?