In Lawrence the past few weeks, I got to be a lunch Dad. That means that I go to the school for the lunch periods and volunteer helping the staff and the kids through lunch. We put out the milk, collect id cards, clean tables, and help the littlest ones with their food.
So on my first day, I noticed that the lunches being served had green beans, a small sandwich, and potato chips. Now, I noticed also that all the kids of course were eating their potato chips and none of them were eating their green beans. So I shared a little bit about my own reality. “Green beans made me strong. Potato chips made me fat.” It got a laugh, but nothing more.
Then, one of the kids asked me for a fork. When I gave it to him, I noticed that the other kids at his table didn’t have forks either. Hmm. A little scouting trip throughout the caf, table by table, and I noticed that none of the kids had forks. No wonder they didn’t eat their vegetables, I thought. None of them have forks!
So I went to Mike, a real lunch Dad, and said, “No wonder they don’t eat their green beans, they don’t have forks.” “That doesn’t matter, they won’t eat them.” I thought, that’s why they don’t give them forks: they’ve lost all hope! “Oh yeah, well let’s see.” So I grabbed as big a fistful of plastic Catholic-school-cafeteria forks as I could and set off into the sea of 3rd and 4th-graders. Mike followed. “I gotta see this.”
I went to the first table, with all my enthusiasm and a big smile, and crouched down to the ladies: “Ladies, who wants a fork for their greenbeans?” Laughs, shakes of the head. No one. Mike laughed. The second table of girls. “OK, who here would like a fork for their greenbeans?” Zip. A few more tables, and Mike is really enjoying himself.
Finally, I get to the last girls’ table, and by now all the other girls are paying attention. “OK, I’ve asked all the girls so far, you can be the first. Who would like a fork for their greenbeans?” And there she was. One girl said yes. She took the fork, and began to eat her greenbeans. Take that, potato chips!
Then it was time for the boys. So I went over to those cool 10 year olds, put by fist on the table, and said, “Alright, guys, I went to every girls’ table and only one girl had the guts to say yes. Are you ready to show the girls what it’s like to have guts? Are you ready to show them what it means to be a boy? Are you ready to say yes?!” They’re waiting on the edge of their seats. Then I pulled out the forks: “Alright then, who wants a fork for their greenbeans?” Heads shaking, zip. Finally, one boy in the caf said yes.
So, I went up to the woman at the front of the caf and told her about the two students who said yes to eating their greenbeans. She said she’d make sure that got a reward. Turns out, she’s the assistant principal.
So after it ended, Mike came up to me. “Wow. You made a difference.” After that, whenever those 3rd and 4th graders came into the cafeteria, it was different from all the other groups that came in. There was a different cheer, a buzz. And when the greens were served, plenty of the kids passed. But plenty were eating their vegetables. Mike saw things differently.
A lot of times in our society, it’s easy to take the comfortable way instead of taking the stuff in life that’s really good for us. It’s easy to go potato chips over greenbeans. The politics, in the workplace, in the news, in the movies and music and internet, even in the Church, there’s not a lot of hope that the good stuff can even be had. It can be really dark.
But that’s where Christians come in. If we say yes to the Lord, we can be the sparks of light in the darkness. We can make a difference, and people will see things differently.
We can give people sight.
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. (Mt 4:16)