The church I work with hosts an evening children's program in April, June, and September. I offered to design and teach the program in June. We are working with the theme of growth and are using three parables that talk about the secret life of seeds. We have everything set up outside on the concrete porch of the church, which is located on a busy corner in a changing neighborhood in Philadelphia.
We've got as many adults attending as we do kids, and this week we had four teenagers show up. It's mysterious to me how these things happen. You toss something beautiful out there and it takes hold.
Tonight we talked about harvest. I had a big glass bowl of fruit and vegetables in the middle of the table. I had a slender vase of pansies from the church garden there as well. A colleague who dropped in for the evening lifted her eyebrows as I moved from picking flowers and settling them into the vase to calling the kids together to begin.
Use what you have. Begin where you are.
We start with dinner and then move into the lesson and the activity. The first week we talked about planting. Last week it was growth. This week harvest. The last few weeks we were all about playing in the dirt. We made grass heads in plastic water bottles, first to reuse and upcycle them, and second so we could see what's going on beneath the surface. I brought in sprouting sweet potatoes for them to plant the next week, first because they're cool, and second because I guessed that these kids had never seen anything like that before.
And I was right. They hadn't. It captured their imaginations.
The parable that week had been about the mystery of growth.
Each week, we review the lessons of previous weeks. These kids are smart. They pay attention and absorb every lesson. Then we launch into the new learning. It's always about what happens next. Seed to shoot to bud to flower to fruit to seed.
Everything begins and ends with the seed.
I never know exactly how things are going to proceed when I work with kids. I have a plan, but pay close attention to what emerges in the moment and allow that to lead. When I started cutting open fruit and veggies and showing the kids what is inside, all of a sudden there were valiant requests to eat the fruits and veggies. They'd spurned the tacos prepared for dinner but went nuts over the fruit and veggies. I started with apples, showed them the star inside, moved into cucumbers and then into cantaloupe. All seed-bearing fruits. I also had potatoes in the bowl, and when I finally pulled one out and asked if they thought we'd find seeds inside when we cut it open, they chorused a resounding, "No!"
They'd remembered the lessons learned with the sweet potatoes. That the potato itself is the seed.
So to speak.
And they totally got the lessons around harvest as they giggled while juice ran down their arms, and the sweetness and juiciness of the fruits and the experience of eating them together, around the table, filled them with joy. With harvest comes the feast.
That was to have been next week's lesson. Celebration.
Tonight's plan had been to use different fruits and veggies as painting implements. My lesson had broken open - like the fruits and veggies - and like seeds. I had a gigantic cutting board in front of me, covered in apple, cucumber, and melon seeds, while the kids munched on the fruit, and I found myself cutting designs into potato halves. I'd never done that before.
That became part of the evening's lesson.
Sometimes you have to risk doing something you've never done before in front of a lot of people so that everyone can learn something new.
We all made awesome works of art with finger paints and potato halves. There were red hearts and triangles, blue squares and Pac Man heads, green leaves and stems, yellow crescent moons and an uncut potato half that you could make into a sun if you added rays with your fingers. And a little yellow circle of potato for Pac Man food. All cut into potato halves by a woman who prayed as she worked that the shapes were recognizable.
Every child at the table was held in rapt attention the whole time.
The adults watched with interest. Especially when I said I'd never done it before. People love to watch someone else try something new.
And I had a ball.
It was a deeply restorative end to a very long day at work. I had also onboarded a new office temp, led a Bible Study for seniors, led a Stewardship meeting around creating a gratitude program for the church to prime the members for the visioning work we'd be doing down the road, completed what felt like a million other tasks in the moments between and beyond.
And I finished writing this a minute before midnight.
The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.