On Breakfast and Bullying: A Year-End Reflection June 4, 2012
As the school year comes to a close, I find myself putting together a few thoughts about our kids and how they are faring.
I have been serving breakfast to a great group of elementary students one morning a week this year and thoroughly enjoying it. Some of them truly would go to class hungry were it not for their Breakfast Club. There are many schools providing students with breakfast in all kinds of ways. Some offer it to all students in their classrooms, some to those who choose to come to a special place before class. Some have hot items, some don't. Some are run by parents, some by teachers, Some are funded by United Way, some by fundraising. Some use the increasingly available program because of nutritional need, others for convenience. Some operate every day, some a few times a week.
I haven't heard many people asking why our children are ending up at school without having eaten breakfast because there is no food in their homes or because their families are not able to handle one more activity in their busy, busy lives. We stopped asking the same sort of question about our perceived "need" for food banks a while back; that questions was about what is happening in our communities that causes our pensioners, seniors and families in crisis to traipse off to the food bank and carry home plastic bags of food because they are simply unable to make what they have stretch through the month? Now that most Food Banks are efficiently run and there is a good system (which even included wild game in our province) we have become used to this "source" of food and most have stopped asking "why" it even exists.
Even as we do our part to make sure our kids are properly fed to be able to learn well, we need to continue to address the roots of this situation. What is happening to cause many families not to be able to serve breakfast to their kids or to choose to let the school breakfast program do it instead. Ideally, there would be enough food, enough time and enough energy at home for kids to eat breakfast before arriving at school. So, if one or more of those factors is lacking on an ongoing basis it's time for us to ask "Why?" and to advocate for our kids. I don't think we really want to our kids to see breakfast as something that does not happen in the home but is picked up along the way at some point in the morning. And if our breakfast programs are actually providing a good Hobbit-honouring "second breakfast" we need to evaluate the priority of that in the midst of so many other needs that are addressed in our schools.
Another theme that appears all around the schooling experience these days is the serious and widespread problem of "bullying". There are many victims and many offenders, lots of workshops, presentations and programs. And still, lots of bullying, cyberbullying and tragic occurrences. And yet, I do not hear the root issues being addressed. To my mind the real question is: What has become of our communities that we are raising so many bullies in our homes? and "How do we change as parents, families and communities so that we raise healthy children who know how to relate to others." The current approach in most schools will continue to be ineffective. It really is not possible to build a healthy community on the basis of "everyone for him/herself", "if it feels good, do it", "you're okay no matter what you do", "no one is the boss of you", "whoever has the best stuff wins", "there are no wrong actions, only poor choices", "all children just need to be in a positive environment in order to become good people" and all the other falsehoods we have accepted into our culture over the last while. Many have drawn our attention to the fact that we are living the backlash of the "self-esteem" movement: "I should feel good about myself no matter how I am behaving and how that is affecting others".
The gospel of the Kingdom of God speaks to these questions and the need to turn around, to find truth and to walk in it. The church is mandated to carry this message into all areas of life in our communities.
Let's be bold and courageous enough to ask why? and to make ourselves available to focus attention on the parts of our cultural foundation that don't bring life. The narrative of the Kingdom of God is often very different from the story our culture is telling.