I can remember the angst of adolescence. One of the more poignant recollections was the ongoing tension between my Dad and I on how to mow the lawn. My Dad had certain standards of linearity and consistency that had to be followed, while I continued to assert in full teenage independence that there was more than one way to mow a yard.
Last night, at the South Street gardens the kids planted squash and sunflowers. The plot needed mowed, so I grabbed the lawnmower and began mowing. After two or three curvy rows (my dad would not have been pleased) a young girl asked me, "Where'd you learn to do that?"
"To Mow? I dunno. You don't learn it, you just do it. You just mow." I responded, taken aback by the nature of the question. I continued mowing and thought about this girl, about my father, and about her father. I try not to make generalizations about the kids we have at South Street. They are all different and come from different families and backgrounds. But I know this girl well, and I know her father isn't there.
As I continued to mow, I thought back to my childhood. To the frustrations of chores and mowing lawn 'the right way.' The young girl wanted to mow so I taught her how (after gaining parental permission, making sure she had shoes on, and with strict oversight). I taught her to keep the mower half on the mowed grass and half on the tall grass to avoid grass lines. I taught her to back-up the lawnmower when the grass is to thick, and how to change the height settings.
Where did I learn to do that? My father taught me. Where has this girl learned how to mow, her community has taught her. At South Street we recognize the need to and value of stepping in the gap. There is a gap in this girls life. We cannot fill the gap, but we can live with her in that space.