Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughts on Materialism, Humanism and the Value of Work By Jaimmie Stugard, Caregiver

Recently, a plumber came to LifeWays to repair the garbage disposal (aka the dragon). At the time, we were getting dressed to go outdoors. As soon as they caught sight of the plumber with his toolbox, a group of little boys in hastily assembled outdoor gear were in the kitchen doorway watching the “worker guy.” One by one, I coaxed the intent observers back to their hooks to finish dressing. We fixed backwards snow pants and adjusted an upside-down jacket, put on a missing boot and a discarded mitten. Throughout the entire process, the little fellas kept inching toward the kitchen and stealing glances at the plumber (the girls were in preschool on this particular day).

When we finally made it outside and into the woods, the children immediately gathered up their “tools” to do their own work. Elijah filled a favorite hollow stump with leaves and bramble and then the children proceeded to unclog the stump with their sticks. The play evolved and the sticks turned into saws and hammers and shovels. The little plumbers became builders, mechanics, construction workers and gardeners. The entire morning was spent imitating purposeful work and playing peacefully.

While the children played, I sat nearby crocheting a washcloth. Little Otto came over and asked “Doing?” When I told him that I was making a cloth, his eyes lit up and he watched as the ball of yarn slowly became a cloth. Face-washing is a favorite activity in our suite. Each day when we come in from the woods, I fill a bowl with warm water and put in a drop of lavender oil and a special cloth for each child. The children wash their faces while we sing “Two little eyes to look around. Two little ears to hear each sound. One little nose to smell what's sweet. One little mouth that loves to eat.” When they are done washing, they come to me with a smile on their shining faces and ask if they are all clean. I help them finish if they've missed a spot and then they hang their cloth on the line to dry... As I finished crocheting the washcloth , I could hear the wonder in Otto's voice when he said, “Cloth?”

American children are surrounded with all sorts of things. Yet, there is a cultural disconnect between our possessions and their source. This materialism is quite understandable in a world where most goods are shipped from across the sea, purchased at a big-box store and tossed into the garbage as soon as they break or become a nuisance (and then shipped back over the sea as exported trash). When adults tend to our things (sewing, knitting, building, fixing, etc.) we cultivate the child's natural interest in how things are made and how things work. To observe and assist an adult in making or repairing an item brings a sense true value to the item. Moreover, it brings a sense of what it is to be human. People make washcloths. People make garbage disposals and pipes. People build houses and roads. People make gardens and farms. People make a wide world of things. And when something is broken, people can fix it.

1 comment:

  1. Young children seek out "cause and effect" activities, be it "what happens when I empty my cup of milk onto the floor?" or witnessing a caregiver create a cloth out of yarn, or watching a worker make something functional from what had been broken. In our culture of instant gratification and throw-away everything we caregivers have to be ever protective and vigilant of the creative, imitative potential within each child! Thank you for the beautiful scene you painted. I find it inspiring. XO Jess