Maren Schmidt: Hungry, hungry planet

A recent museum exhibit, Hungry Planet, showed photographs of 12 families from around the world along with the food they ate for a week. These photos, excerpted from the book, "Hungry Planet," are by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. You might be familiar with other of Menzel's work, "Material World," a picture book depicting families around the world photographed with all their material possessions.

As I walked around the exhibit room, it struck me that the less packaged food a family was pictured with, the more the body language of the family seemed to convey comfortableness and an engagement of being in the moment. The more processed food in the picture, the sense of togetherness seemed less evident.

The children in the Mongolian and Ecuadorian families possessed heartfelt smiles even though we might consider their material possessions and weekly food rations extremely meager.

What came through the pictures to me was that our planet is hungry for connection and meaningful contribution to others in our immediate lives.

Those with less material possessions depend more on one another for the basics of everyday life - hauling water, making fires, gathering food and caring for animals. Children are involved in direct work that contributes to the well-being of their families. If the children don't do their jobs, the absence of their tasks reverberates throughout the family and the larger community.

It's like the old pioneer adage, "If you don't work, you don't eat."

If you don't help, perhaps there isn't enough food for dinner. The children understand this.

In our modern world, our children find it difficult to contribute in purposeful ways to their everyday lives. It is difficult for many of our children to see any link between contribution and consumption.

It is our job as adults to help our children make this connection between creating service and using services. Our children are quite capable of many tasks and take pleasure in the work. Satisfaction in providing a vital job in the smooth running of their homes and schools provides children the impetus to take on greater responsibilities.

Years ago, I showed one of my 4-year-old students how to wash a table, a standard lesson in a Montessori classroom. As Anna scrubbed away, cheerfully creating bubbles and foam on the tabletop, she stopped and looked me in the eye, her brows furrowed.

"Why am I doing maid's work?"

"Because it's fun?" I said.

Anna smiled. "Yep. It's fun. Real fun."

Anna was right. It wasn't fake fun. It was real fun.

When our children have opportunities to care for people and objects in their environments of home, school and church, we create real fun for our children, joy that shines in their eyes as they help not only themselves but their families and communities.

Our Earth is hungry for those opportunities that show care and offer service to others.

Working to care for our Earth and the people living here makes our Earth a home, a home where the heart is.

For a list of jobs that children can do to care for their families, e-mail Maren @KidsTalkNews.com and ask for the Kids Talk Job List.

Next Week: Choosing Thankfulness

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