By COLLEEN LEDDY
Sunday night: I just spent nearly two hours poring over “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats” by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio when I should have been washing dishes. Many dishes. Dishes dirtied in the process of making lots of food for a potluck gathering with longtime friends where I had an amazing realization when a teacher friend relayed a comment made by a fellow teacher.
My friend always has funny stories about her students and insightful tales about the state of teaching in general. So when she repeated what the teacher had said, “I’m not going to have that little s--t in my classroom next year,” I was shocked. Not by the cursing, but by the attitude of the teacher. An attitude that was confirmed by Sarah, my son Ben’s girlfriend, who is student teaching this year. She’d heard a comment of similar content from a teacher at her school.
It was one of those holey moley moments. You mean all teachers aren’t like those in Morenci? They don’t all welcome every kid in their room with open arms? Don’t teachers take some sort of oath?
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
No, no, I know. That’s the Statue of Liberty poem.
When my children were in elementary school and I had occasion to have them placed with a particular teacher who I thought they would be best suited to, it never occurred to me that the teacher might not want my child in his or her room. Sure, my kids were always well-behaved docile creatures whose major classroom crime was not raising their hands when they knew the answer (Even as a high school junior, Maddie still commits this crime against teaching), so it’s likely they were welcome. But as a person who often over-analyses the angles on every situation, it never entered my head that a teacher wouldn’t want a student, maybe wouldn’t want my students.
I rode home from that gathering trying to wrap my head around that idea and the differences between how I see the world and how others do, in many other ways.
My brother Kevin would call this awakening a paradigm shift—when one little thing happens and you change your whole way of thinking, your whole outlook on an issue or situation. It happens in major ways, too, paradigm shifts, such as our ancestors accepting that the sun is the center of the universe, not the earth, as well as the more personal ones, seismic cracks in your brain, usually followed by uttering terms of amazement like, “Oh, sweet Jesus.” “Wow! That never occurred to me before.” “Oh, my word.” It’s a nice feeling when a paradigm shift hits. To gain a whole different perspective, to see the world in a whole new light, the newness of the thought and the brightness of the light—it’s all kind of dazzling.
So, “Hungry Planet.” I’m sure there’s a paradigm shift in here somewhere.
It’s an amazing book. Through stories and photographs, it profiles the eating and food gathering practices of 30 families from 24 countries around the world. It includes a portrait of each family surrounded by all the food they eat in one week. Instead of making me hungry for the lemon bars I brought to the potluck but never sampled, “Hungry Planet” makes me realize I eat way too much. It’s easy for me to know I’m eating way too much because this winter when I bend over, poring over “Hungry Planet” for example, I feel my stomach making a shelf on which I can almost rest my elbows.
I keep telling myself I will get up after reading about one more country. Why contribute to the expansion of this stomach shelf? But just as I can’t stop after eating just one chocolate chip muffin, I flip the page and another striking photo catches my eye, so I have to read the caption. I’m a slow reader and a slow looker so I only get as far as Ecuador before I have to get tough with myself and stop. But I peek into the intriguing photos of Egypt and I’m off again into the book. “Wash dishes” will be high on my to do list tomorrow. I skip from Egypt to the back of the book, easing my way out, examining the intriguing photos of the author posing with a naked tribesman from Indonesia and the photographer about to have a bite of deep-fried starfish.
Monday morning: I wonder when I’ll make the amazing realization that I should wash all the dishes before going to bed.– March 1, 2006