I want to talk about public schools and my city. I need to share what kids want and what I want for my kids. I am curious why you chose the school you chose and where you live. We need to talk about our ZIP codes, and why they matter to us and God.
Then when it gets to be too much, we can sit in silence over tea for a while.
Stay up to date with my newsletter!
blogs you may have missed ...
Have a conversation about schools with anyone for more than three minutes and you’re likely to hear one line above others: “You have to do what’s best for your children.” That line gets dragged out by well-meaning, very kind people who affirm that school choice exists for times like these: times of low test scores, of anemic graduation rates, or whatever algebraic formula they use to label a school “failing.”
This is me, too, by the way. I’ve said that line.
Just about every weekday morning, I drive 12 minutes south to an elementary school in a Lansing suburb. All my girls attend this year: it’s a K-4 public school. We love that place: the teachers and staff are warm and friendly, art class rocks, the field trips are fantastic, the principal welcomes kids by name as they unload from the drop-off line.
In July, Sarah and I went to my hometown to speak at the little public library where I worked when I was 14. My mom and stepdad and some of my aunts and cousins and even some strangers packed the tiny room that in the late ’90s was a garage for the village’s EMS.
Someone (unfairly) asked me (in the presence of my mom) whether I’d ever consider moving home, back to the place in Ohio where I’d graduated a decade and a half ago.
“I mean, could you do this sort of thing” — she referenced the new-monastic-like, Year of Small Things, radical-faith thing — “here in a rural place or a small town?”
Maybe the most important work of the Lansing Youth Football Club team isn’t what happens on the field.
Sure, soccer matters to the dozen and a half guys on the team. Almost every day the players carpool to Lansing’s Francis Park for two or three hours of practice. Occasionally they scrimmage teams from Grand Rapids. They train for tournaments in Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
“This (team) is our passion,” said one of the team’s captains, Damber Magar. Like most of the players on this independent soccer team, Damber’s family are Bhutanese and came to Lansing as refugees from Nepal. Damber’s family was resettled through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in 2010.
To welcome someone into your home is to show them what you think’s important. Remember the first friend-date you had as an adult? For mine, I was staging my coffee table with smart books and a candle (I should’ve dusted the dust jackets first for maximum credibility).
Now, you know you’re my friend if you walk into the space now occupied by Lego, library books, and eleven hundred little scraps of paper Louisa tells me are “bookmarks.” (I love you and I can’t keep up with my many, many children, is what my living room says.)
But to welcome someone to your hometown is to show them something deeper, something maybe mitochondrial. Ah yes, I’ve said when I see friends’ hometowns. I can see this place in you.
So, that’s happening next week at a book event in the place where I graduated, got married, and flee to when I need my mom.
“This is home,” Nael Al Saedi said, sitting on his couch one rainy Saturday afternoon.
His family walked in and out of their living room, taking turns telling stories and listening to each other’s. The home has been theirs for less than a year — bought about seven years after arriving in Lansing as refugees.
Inside, the youngest helped herself to ice cream at the kitchen table. Outside, a red, white, and blue pinwheel spun in the landscaping.
This is home, he said.
“You must be coming to visit me!” We were halfway around our block when were stopped by a wave from our octogenarian neighbor who lives behind us. We weren’t technically coming to visit, but our walk turned into a tour of her ever-changing garden. Her garden is her thing: I notice her from the kitchen Read more about And finally, it’s spring: where our words have been[…]
Of all the chapters in The Year of Small Things, the hardest to write was about self-care. For one, pretending you’re Dorothy Day feels good; prophetic, even. Talking about depression doesn’t.
But. It’s important to talk about with other people if only because it shouldn’t be awkward. Vulnerability was the posture I wrote from, and now that people are seeing the stuff on the soft underbelly (I’ve had three children, what do you want from me), people have felt compelled to share their own mental junk.