Freedom From Want
I had drawn a picture of a tiered cake with an icing swags on the board.
"So what is this?"
"It's a wedding cake!"
"What if I told you it was a chocolate cake and the icing was pink?"
"It's white cake with white icing."
"Then it's probably a birthday cake."
"Because wedding cakes are white with white icing."
"Is there a rule that says wedding cake can't be chocolate with pink icing?"
"No, but that's just not the way people do it."
"We're talking about food traditions aren't we? What holiday may be based almost completely around food?"
And the kids begin to list Thanksgiving food....turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn, gravy, and pizza....
"Pizza??" the other kids responded with eyebrows raised.
Uh oh. Thanksgiving should have been a safe approach to an area that could easily drift into some sensitive territory. In my best teacher voice I pointed out that different people make different choices and was going to move right along, but Ryan volunteered this explanation,
"My parents divorced when I was in third grade. My dad moved out the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we just couldn't do the whole Thanksgiving thing, so me and Mom ordered Domino's pizza. And now that's what we do every year. We eat pizza and watch movies."
Thanksgiving doesn't look the same at everyone's house, but what we do with the day may tell our story as an individual. That famous Norman Rockwell picture? It first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1943. It's title is Freedom from Want. It is the iconic image of Thanksgiving and it speaks to what what we'd still like to believe about our nation 67 years later.
"..Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that nearly one in four children struggles with hunger. .... For most Americans with enough to eat, the hungry kid in our neighborhood is invisible. Hunger in the United States doesn't look like famine in developing countries, but its consequences are nonetheless devastating. Children who don't regularly get enough healthy food suffer behavioral difficulties, fatigue, poorer health, weaker immune systems and more hospitalizations. Not surprisingly, hungry kids also show impaired performance in school - academically, athletically and socially. More than 60 percent of public school teachers identify hunger as a problem in the classroom. Roughly the same percentage go into their own pockets to buy food for their hungry students.
I continue to wrestle with public education's role in attempting to meet basic physical needs of our children. But I am thankful for all the teachers out there who keep a little extra lunch money in their desk drawer. And whether they are eating turkey or tuna or tamales or tabouli or even pizza, I hope that children will experience Freedom from Want on Thanksgiving Day.