Fruits of Contemplation
The month of August felt much like the Italian "Ferragosto". Sean, Karen and Jimmy took turns taking time off to visit family. We certainly could not have done so without Laura's steady presence and the help of Sean's sister, Maura. Its Florence, however, who celebrated the summer in grand fashion, leaving for pilgrimage on August 2nd and returning September 5th! Even though many in the community left the sweltering City in August, we did welcome one traveler to NYC. Ana Maria Belique, an activist in Dominican Republic advocating for Dominicans of Haitian decent. Ana Maria works for a group called Reconoci.do. Their sister organization in the United States is We are all Dominican. Anna Maria quickly became part of our family and we hope she returns to Benincasa soon! Estamos contigo, Ana Maria!
Benincasa Community also welcomed War Resisters League in August for their summer retreat. Happy to have such a fun, dedicated, important group of folks in the house.
Amidst travels and travelers, we held steady with our Soup Kitchen, hitting the one year mark with the Soup Kitchen as well. Not only have we kept the Soup Kitchen open all summer, we've increased the number of guests and volunteers and introduced fresh organic vegetables from the Sisters' Harmony Farm. We've kept up with the CSA distribution too - faithfully bringing the most gorgeous vegetables you've ever seen to grateful folks in our neighborhood!
At the end of August, we welcomed a new community member, Lindsay Sudeikis. Lindsay was a friend of the community since the beginning and its easy and wonderful to have her here with us every day.
Finally and sadly, we said good bye to beloved Joe Towle, SJ. Joe loved Benincasa and spoke about us with enthusiasm, confidence, and pride. Safe travels to you, Joe.
Back to school - How one teacher prepares to welcome students
This month, students across this country go back to school. For some, this is a time of great excitement and anticipation. Children will walk through schoolhouse doors with smiles plastered across their faces as they recount the adventures of leisure they experienced throughout the summer. Some will have traveled to new countries, sharing stories of eating exotic foods and reveling on sandy beaches. Others may have attended a sleep away camp, catching tadpoles and playing group games. Regardless, summer should be a time for revelry and rejoicing.
However, coming back to school remains a time of great anxiety and unknown for many young people. In recent years, anti-bullying and cyber-kindness campaigns have rightfully filled conversations and some schools have begun to implement restorative justice practices to replace archaic zero-tolerance behavior management policies. Still, much more must be done to resist a culture of discipline in schools that mimics and reinforces a criminal justice system targeting the bodies and lives of people of color. Our apathy is a form of prejudice. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
This summer in particular, I have been reflecting on the events that occur in a child’s life at home. Every year nearly 7.5 million students miss over a month of school. For these young people, the end result is falling behind 1 to 2 years in their core subjects. Students who fall behind tend drop out more. In a recent report for NPR, Gabrielle Emanuel found students who witness incidents of domestic violence while at home often cut class or act out in school as a way of exercising power in an otherwise powerless situation. Even students with impeccable attendance and stable households are affected by the lives and situations of their peers. And, why wouldn’t they be? After a decade of working with young people in schools, I have found they regularly exhibit deep empathy for one another in a manner that far exceeds most interactions I have with adults.
All adults working with young people in schools are mandated reporters when it comes to suspicion of abuse and domestic violence. And, research shows when adults, and especially parents, address this violence, young people benefit and achieve more in school and later in life. I pray we feel empowered enough to address violence when they see it.
We still have a long way to go. This fall schoolhouse doors open, but will they be safe spaces for all? My heart turns as well toward the several students sitting in my classroom who have escaped fierce tragedy, discrimination, and xenophobia across the world as the result of US involved conflict in Syria and throughout the Middle East. If we are reporters of domestic violence against children, then we must also be reporters of international violence against children. Can most of us even begin to fathom the effects of constant warfare on the young? And, what have we done to alleviate this tragedy? In addition to the emotional, physical, and psychological impact of living through this violent warfare, this crisis is an intellectual genocide of an entire people, an entire generation. We must learn more. We must do more. We must say more. How will we respond? How will we stop and triage the wounds caused by domestic and international violence? We owe it to our young learners to think about this question too.