Mary Lou Kownacki, OSBby Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged with humanity,” Rabindranath Tagore

Once a week I teach a writing class at the Inner City Neighborhood Art House and always end the session by taking the students on a field trip—a movie, a museum visit, a bookstore. This year we went to Barnes & Noble where each child gets to choose a book or journal and then we stop for snack at a fast food place. It’s the car ride to the store that’s always most informative. I learned, for instance, from a thirteen-year-old girl that her bedroom is a small space behind the living room couch. That’s her special room; it’s where she sleeps. I try to picture myself at 13–dealing with all the issues of adolescence–sleeping behind a couch in the public living room.

Another child, this one ten-years-old, told me that the last city she lived in, Denver, “was a very bad city.” She went into great detail about the awful landlords who would not lift a finger to remove roaches and vermin from her family’s apartment. “We tried so hard,” she said. “We bought traps and poison and thought we got rid of them… but they always returned. And the landlords wouldn’t do anything.” A lover of books–she was currently reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson—this bright ten-year-old was so excited about her first visit to Barnes and Noble. She waxed eloquent about the sensory experience of opening a new book. “I can’t wait,” she said. “I just love the smell of the pages when you first open a new book. I just love it.” I waited a few minutes and asked, “How is the apartment you’re living in now?” “Oh,” she sighed, “a little better, but not too much.”…

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