Posted tagged ‘environment’

A Glimpse Within

July 28, 2009

My child is filthy.  His clothes hang disheveled, covered with mud and soot.  I can smell him from several feet away.  His face and hands are nearly black.  His shins are covered with blood from bug bites and brambles, sweat drips from under his baseball hat.  He’s smiling as I walk toward him. 

I ask him about his day.  I expect to hear about building camp in the woods, about making a fire without matches, about whittling a bowl from a log.  He is a Forest Scout and this is his first day of Earth Skills camp.  On other such days, he’s talked of juniper tea and eating roadkill.  He has built himself a shelter of branches and snow and spent a February night there.  He has talked of hiking to the middle of the Maine woods with only a compass and some cryptic directions back to the path: left at the big mossy rock, straight through the blueberry patch…The stories of his adventures in the woods tumble out, his words almost faster than his mind as he races from highlight to highlight. 

These are not the stories I hear now. Instead, he tells me he was annoyed all day.  He struggled with his group and isn’t sure how he’ll participate with them the rest of this week.  Though the activities were fun, there were kids in his group who “put a damper on the day”.  I ask him to begin at the beginning.

One boy came to camp wearing a fedora.  My son inquired about his choice of head wear and this boy responded that he’s Jewish and that all of the great rabbis wear a fedora.  This satisfied my child’s curiosity.  Throughout the day, however, other boys in the group would make comments to this boy such as “you can’t play this with us, you’re Jewish” or “we’ll fight you, you’re Jewish”.  The boy would laugh along with these others but my son was deeply offended.  He asked the boys to stop speaking this way.  He told them their words, while not aimed at him, were hurtful and offensive.  Once in a while, the counselor would also ask the boys to rein in their comments, though it didn’t last for long. 

My son and I consider the options.  He can deal with it as he did today.  He can ask to switch groups. He can try to find remedy through dialogue.  He decides to speak to the assistant program director since his counselor has already left for the day.  He tells her he’s uncomfortable in his group with this kind of atmosphere.  She agrees that it is unacceptable and assures him that she will speak to the counselor and help him to resolve the issue.  My son feels better and begins in earnest now to describe the ember he created to hollow out the center of his cedar-log bowl.  For a moment, all else is forgotten.

This boy, my first child, is a student of history.  He knows World War II the way other boys his age know baseball statistics.  He can rattle off campaigns, dates, military leaders and strategies, weapons, outcomes.  He is fascinated with Nazi propaganda.  Sometimes it is disturbing, this knowledge.  I try to encourage him to fill his mind with peace- as balance.  I required he read “Talking Peace” by Jimmy Carter last school year.  I banned war books for the summer.  I limit the amount of conversation focused on the military.  It is my own discomfort.  It is my own hope that my child not absorb the terror, hatred, brutality of history.  It is my dream that he be an instument for peace in the world. 

I see now that I need not worry.    The program director meets the kids in the woods.  He speaks to them of tolerance and awareness.  There are fewer remarks and the kids respect my son’s request that they refrain from anti-Semitism, even when “joking”.  Are these boys truly anti-Semites?  Probably not.  Is the boy who is Jewish offended?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that my child  has demonstrated strength of character.  He has proven his integrity.  He is sensitive to inherent wrong.  He has shown leadership in his intolerance of the language and actions of his peers.  He has been proactive in seeking resolution.  I know he can use a compass to navigate the woods and now I realize he has tapped an internal compass as well.  I am so proud of him.  I am so grateful he is in this world, as he is.  He is all boy: filthy and disheveled, bruised, smelly and physical.  Yet he is more and I have caught a glimpse of him in truth: strong, principled, peaceful.  Amen!  I am a lucky momma, indeed.

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