My wildly ambitious intention was to write a blog post every day (seriously?) about the gifts I receive and give. I have coerced my Advocacy class into thinking about how they give & receive gifts each day during December; my thought is that this moves people to be mindful about positive moments in their days, to start noticing what kinds of delightfulness swirls around them even if most of their lives are nonsensical and perhaps generally crummy. Not to diminish the awfulness that might be present, but to remind everyone that regardless of the same old sh*t, there is usually something worth giving a little thanks for, even if it is as simple as sunshine on a 40 degree morning or a few cookies in the middle of a food-free day. Some of my students have such horrible lives that I often feel a little ridiculous asking them to acknowledge small favors, but honestly - what good does it do anyone to dwell on the garbage when you're a kid and have no say in most of the insanity of your existence? Why not focus on the pleasant stuff - especially what they can create & control- at least for 30 minutes of the day?
So. It was nice to hear on Thursday that many of my kids could list ways of giving non-materially: offering compliments, smiling, holding doors, giving advice, sharing a table at lunch, writing poems or singing songs or making music in the hallway. If I weren't a trained & highly skilled professional, I would have fallen on the floor and wept for their selfless, youthful beauty & optimism. Many of these children (teenagers are, truly, still children, people) live with unemployed parents, single and struggling moms & dads, parents who suffer addictions or diseases (or both), and occasionally well-meaning but tired or clueless grandparents and even great-grandparents; some know abuse most of us cannot and would rather not fathom; some have changed homes in one decade more times than most adults have ever considered; they do not think twice about selling, purchasing, or using one or more drugs to get by; they desperately want to grow up and be "successful" but have no idea how to do so in real life, legally.
I printed calendars for them to record the gifts they give & receive this month. I do not tell them that what I consider a gift given is my assertion that they are invaluable members of this world; I also do not mention that a gift to me is their presence in my classroom every. single. day. For now, it is enough that we greet each other sincerely every morning and that they feel smart raising their hands to answer a question in history class.
Those are things worth giving, and getting.
Happy holidays ~ pass it on.