Monday, February 2, 2009

Through the Eyes of an Eight Year Old

I grew up in a middle class family in the 60's. Dad worked. Mom stayed at home. We didn't have a lot of extras but we never went without. Each summer we would take a family vacation. One of my greatest memories as a very young boy was our ritual on Saturday night. First was a bath so we were ready for church the next morning. Then a trip with Dad to McDonald's on South Michigan Street in South Bend. I don't remember if they had inhouse dining because every time we would pull up in the drive thru and watch them peal potatoes for the french fries. We'd order a cheeseburger, fries and usually a chocolate shake and head home. I still remember how great that felt.

As we raised our kids and now as we have grandkids a trip to McDonald's is commonplace. Almost expected. Not out of greed but out of convenience.

Today, I had the chance to take two boys from the Monroe Circle neighborhood to McDonald's. Last week during the after-school program they brought in a certificate for a free sandwich as a reward for their good attendance. They talked about how they really wanted to go but didn't think it would happen. We made a plan. They got excited and asked over and over if it would really happen on Monday.

Here is their reality in 2009 from the eyes of an 8 year old living at Monroe Circle.

1. You arrive at MC3 fifteen minutes early because you can't believe the day has finally arrived.
2. Your parental release form has been folded, opened and refolded so many times the paper is starting to tear on the fold lines. You've stuffed it deep in your pocket because this is your golden ticket to a rare experience. Without it you can't go - you can't leave. The dream of going to McDonald's is so close but yet it seems so far away.
3. You get very quiet when we pull into the parking lot because you see three police cars parked outside the restaurant. You are afraid to ask but you think you know the answer, "Can we still go in?" You are relieved when you hear sure we can.
4. You have been given your final instructions on how to order your meal.
5. You shyly look at their feet when asked what they would like to eat. Quietly and politely you ask for a Big Mac, an order of small fries and coke. After prompting you agree to change the coke to a shake but still insist on the small fries.
5. You ask if it is okay to set in a booth next to the gas fireplace because it "feels good." You look up and see the three officers are sitting at the next table over and you are not sure it is still okay to sit here. You look at me for confirmation.
6. You share as you devour your meal that you can't remember when was the last time you came to McDonald's because it takes too long to walk here from Monroe Circle.
7. You try to be polite and answer questions about your hopes and dreams but you really can't even get past the next few months. You have learned to survive one day at a time. You've been to Mishawaka but that is as far from home that you have gotten.
8. You ask if you can go back to Monroe Circle Community Center because you want to finish your homework before you go home at 5 PM because you know Ms. Amy or one of the other volunteers are truly interested in helping you get it right.
9. You are pretty sure you will be able to come back to MC3 on Wednesday. Next Monday is not guaranteed. Hope is one day at a time.

My prayer is the $10.00 I spent on two Big Macs, two small fries and two shakes will have a small impact on how these two boys view their value, their worth, their potential. I know for sure it made my day.

1 comment:

Kara Szyarto said...

thank you for sharing this. it's a reminder that sometimes the small things we overlook are a big deal to someone else. i appreciate what you guys are doing in that community.