Like a flock of birds

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Sat, 12/03/2011 - 16:41

Yesterday was the kind of warm sunny day in early December that feels like fall, not winter. Walking with my dog, Keren, past a parochial primary school playground at recess. Kids wrestling, showing off, swooping around in a ball game, chirping and shouting, making playground noises—like a flock of birds. I passed on, down the hill, and then turned back to see what the sudden rise in noise and pitch was all about. Thirty or more kids leaning over the fence above me. Sounding like the flock of grackles that would swoop down and cover a tree at sunset, but with added urgency. I walked back to try and hear what they were trying to tell me. It was a lost ball, "See, under the front of that car, get it please!" I managed to retrieve it and tried to figure out the best way to get it to them. A good kick? But what if I couldn't get it over the fence? Throw it? And then one of the boys came down the sidewalk. "The teacher told me to get it." So I handed it to him. The kids peeled away from the fence, running like birds taking off from a tree, some calling out, "Thanks!" and others calling out "Thank you, dog." So Keren got credit, too!

Somehow this incident made my day. Elders like me want to give, want to be needed, we enjoy being a part of the lives of younger people, especially kids. Many of us don't have the health or resources to do very much. So a chance like this, which cost nothing, and gave so much pleasure, was very rewarding.

We live in a time of transition and of danger. Families lose their homes, children are homeless, people are out of work and can't find jobs, elders are poor, afraid, and isolated. If lucky, some elders find subsidized housing that alas! lacks needed social supports. Perhaps best described by a favorite pair of authors: It was a cruel sentence, and the crime was being too old. As a worn-out cog in the social machine, one was dumped on the garbage heap.
--Martin Beck in The Locked Room: The Story of a Crime by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

But let us step back from and get a perspective on the emotional political arguments about the economy, the national debt, and false solutions based on cutting the role of government and society's role in providing a safety net for all. These are but symptoms of the path we are blindly following, a path leading to doom.

What are the real threats to our grandchildren? The worst is the possibility of the end to life on earth, preceeded by war, thirst, and famine, caused by drastic changes in climate making it impossible to grow enough food to feed everyone. And all brought about by the failure of society to take the urgent and clearly defined steps needed to reverse global warming. We have the basic science and technology needed to transition from a carbon-burning energy regime to renewable, low-carbon sources of energy. And to develop a robust "green" economy that will be the source of jobs, productivity, and taxes. We can't put off action, because inaction will assure doom. We can't blame the politicians, they answer to us. Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

We need to look to the education of our grandchildren. We need to have them grow up with a roof over their heads. What can I do? I create books like A Tree for Max for my grandchild, Max, and for all children. I hope there may be found within some insights and lessons that can encourage a child towards literacy, to read, to imagine, to observe and care for the natural world, and to grow. I want to find a way to reach kids in need, including homeless kids, with these experiences. There are so many of them lined up on the fences, chirping like a flock of birds.