Well, so the election is coming up, or sort of happening, the excitement of an actual election day long watered down by a two or three or four-week voting “process.” Somehow, it’s just not the same thing, sitting down at the dining room table with a black pen and a vote-by-mail ballot, calling the progeny from their rooms so that they can “watch me vote!”
“Cool, Mom. Is there anything to eat?”
And speaking of eating, that’s actually what I wanted to talk about today because, oddly, how and what we choose to eat is a determination of how free we are. I know, that sounds loopy, but bear with me:
Yesterday I read a Letter to the Editor from a mother whose son was 35 cents short to pay for his school lunch. The person at the cash register, who was either having a bad day or more likely was just doing the job she was hired to do, tossed the entire tray of food into the trash and waved the kid on.
While it doesn’t take many letters behind your name to figure out that the boy was publicly humiliated (M.O.M. or D.A.D. will do), this isn’t the point of the story. Neither is the blatant waste of something too many people in the world don’t have enough of — food.
What struck me was the mother’s lament that her son had to content himself with a bag of potato chips, and what were school officials thinking in presuming that her son could effectively learn if he weren’t properly fed? I mean, aren’t there all sorts of studies out there about this?
Studies aside, there’s actually an amazingly simple solution to this problem, and it doesn’t involve an additional 35 cents in her son’s pocket:
Pack your own lunch.
Years ago, when I was a little tyke with a side-swiped pony tail that represented the only way my mother knew how to do my hair, I sat with half the school in the gymnasium, eating a cold home-packed collation from a battered metal Bugs Bunny lunchbox. The other half of the school, the “Haves,” were in the basement cafeteria, where hot food was served.
Sometimes, on Fish Stick day, I was insanely jealous of the Haves, but this was counterbalanced by Hobo Stew Day, representing a compendium of leftovers that was as appetizing as its name. While every so often I finagled the precious 75 cents from my mother so that I could hob nob with my social betters in the basement, most of the time I ate what she — and later I, as I grew older — prepared: a bologna sandwich, a banana, a cookie, some soup. It may not have topped the nutrition or taste-test scales, but neither did the Hobo Stew, or even the fish sticks, for that matter.
But there was no issue about my being properly fed, or my going hungry because I didn’t like what was being served, because my mother and I were in control of the situation. We, not school officials, not the First Lady who may or may not be out of a job in a few weeks, not the USDA, determined what I ate. And we did a fine job of it.
But nowadays, many people willingly hand over this simple task to an impersonal institution that is not particularly known for its culinary prowess. Why?
Whether it’s because they’re poor (we weren’t rich) or too busy (I never saw my mother sit in the middle of the day) or worried about their children’s being ridiculed for being different (quite the learning environment, there), the result is that yet another small thing that we can do to assert our independence is taken out of our hands, willingly so, because we let it go.
It’s such a mindless, minor job, that its very triviality makes it not seem worth talking about. But that so many people simply can’t see how they can prepare their own child’s lunch — and so many more are told that they unable to properly do so, and they NEED somebody to do it for them — shows that it’s not trivial at all, but a symptom of a much larger problem.
If we don’t remain independent in the little things, how do we expect to keep our freedoms in the bigger ones?