A few weeks ago I went into an office supply store shopping for a small shredder for my house. Of all of the household appliances, I think that my favorite ball coach ranked the shredder at the top of the list just behind the first place vacuum cleaner. Before confessing to him that I dropped the industrial sized shredder on a concrete surface exactly on the motor (two times), I decided to shop for another one. I thought that a smaller shredder might prevent the second and fatal drop of his valued household appliance.
It was late morning on a Sunday when I drove to the store. The weather as a perfect desert hot and dry so I expected folks to be out enjoying the opportunity to literally bake in the sun. Since sun bathing was not my preferred pastime, I looked forward to what I believed would be a quiet shopping trip in a cool, climate-controlled environment.
When I arrived at the store, I thought it odd that there were more cars in the parking lot than there had been at other times I visited this store. I also noticed that navigation through the parking lot was more challenging than usual too. This time, I exercised more caution maneuvering to a vacant space because of all of the children who enjoyed the open spaces like they had found a vast, green, grassy field in which to use their youthful legs to hop, skip, and twirl. Even though I was aware of the cars and the people distracted by their missions, I still didn’t connect their presence to anything in particular.
I walked into the store expecting a greeter to say welcome to the store as I made my way toward the clearance table (because that’s where any expert shopper starts the process). To my surprise, there was no clearance table close to the door and no greeter. All of the folks in red shirts were flitting around with stoic faces closely trailed by shoppers with anxious demeanors. Some of the anxiety stemmed from excitement about the bright and shiny things all around them. Others expressed anxiety because they searched for the one random thing that no store in town seemed to have in stock. Suddenly, I realized that it was time for “Back to School” shopping. My empty nester life had distanced me from all reminders of this important, yet stressful annual event. I had missed all of the commercials, all of the signage, and all of the water cooler chats about kids returning to school.
Instead of pivoting and heading back to my car, I continued into the store and embraced the chaos. I nestled into the wonderful energy of the bright colors and what my father called, “noise-noise.” He was an educator and he used to say, “There was noise and there was noise-noise.” The “noise-noise” referred to that reverberation of busyness and chatter that existed in a healthy, fruitful learning environment. As I wrote those words, I understood why my children and I were never built for the traditional parochial school environment. We needed “noise-noise.”
As I fell deeper into the embrace of children excited about learning, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the bright and shiny things strategically placed near the entrance. Like a child, I allowed myself to be hoodwinked by the cunning mind trick of the seller. I walked aimlessly off to the right side of the store in search of nothing. Over the course of the next hour and a half, I examined the new gadgets and noted the items that transcended decades of school shoppers. I enjoyed listening to the preschool shopper making selections predicated on colors without considering the potential cost of such limited thinking. I only hoped that the simplistic thoughts of those children would not be applied to their lives beyond school supply shopping.
Observations of the pre-teen shopper made me pause. Long gone were the days of school supply shopping lists committed to paper. These young ones had cell phones! It wasn’t until I saw a father-son team searching for some random item like it was “the golden ticket” in the candy bar that I realized these school shoppers were paperless. The son and the father had begun to doubt their memories. When they couldn’t find the prized marker, the son pulled out his cell phone to refresh their memories. The concept of decreasing our footprints and being eco-friendly took on new meaning for me. The electronically recorded school supply list reminded me that it had been a minute since I participated in this “Back to School” ritual.
Although school supply shopping for my grown children looked nothing like this in-store drill, some things remained the same:
- Reading, writing, and arithmetic remain fundamental in the learning process.
- Enthusiasm for learning and instruction is necessary in the educational environment.
- Students come in all ages and must remain students for life.
- Intelligence must overcome ignorance.
- Stable communities are built on involved and inclusive communities.
- Teachers are important leaders and villagers in our communities who need our support.
Whether you have children in the school or not, please don’t miss the opportunity to support schools near you. Invest your time, your dollars, and your prayers in the children who populate your neighborhoods. Educate yourself on the things that challenge our children and our schools. Encourage our children to love learning and dreaming. Empower our children to use their minds to set visions that take them outside the village so that they can be the first to do something really cool. Enlighten the other grown folks around you who are too caught up in their own mess to wake up and help you build supportive villages for our kids.