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Monday, November 21, 2011

"It is Good to Have an End to Journey Towards; But It Is The Journey That Matters In The End." --Ursula K. LeGuin FAMILY ACTIVITY DAY

            Sometimes, it is chance happenings, those unplanned events, that turn out to be the most memorable parts of life.  Squished in between the cleaning chores, kids’ sports games, friend gatherings, birthday parties, and several pre-Thanksgiving errands of the weekend, we scheduled a time to put everything aside and celebrate our family with a family activity.  As it turns out, our family activity turned out to be something completely unplanned. 
            J.J., my youngest son, was involved in a food-gathering activity for the local food bank.  This was an activity important to him and to the other boy scouts in his pack.  The food bank, especially since Hurricanes Irene and Lee, has had its inventory severely strained.  His pack leader was taking all the help she could get; there was more of a need than much of our boy scouts could fill.  In fact, the reality of the situation is that many of the people being asked for food donations quite possibly were people who needed the food.

  Although J.J. started out full of gusto, walking with his sister and I distributing food bags for neighbors to fill, he started to look quite droopy.  Later, when we took a break, I felt his forehead and realized he had a fever.  My husband, sons, and daughter, then quietly decided that they would go out, pick up the food from neighbors for my youngest son’s pack and help transport it to the local food bank. 
            Was there grumbling?  Well, I’d be lying if I said that my kids happily stopped all their activities and joyfully jumped out the door to help their younger brother’s pack meet its quota and help the food bank.  For my older sons, this wasn’t an activity they had planned and my daughter had already been gathering food for a good while already.  But they did it.  They put their shoes on and went out with my husband, trudging from neighbor to neighbor for the food donations. 
At home, with my youngest son on the couch, I got a call from my husband.  “The kids are running from door-to-door getting food.  They are making it a contest.  They decided to start knocking on doors and ask for donations!”  He was laughing. 
My son took the phone from him and said, “Mom, you can’t believe it!”  He started to tell me about the neighbors he was seeing along the way and all the food they were giving, though many were strained for food themselves.  My husband called again later to tell me about the local food bank drop-off and seeing the school football players there helping to unload their gathered donations.  Several of them knew my oldest son and were talking and laughing with him as they unloaded the van together. 
The food-gathering continued through the afternoon, through our cleaning time, through our scheduled family activity time.  I had to explain this to the kids when they got home.  “I’m really sorry, guys,” I said.  “We ran out of time to do our family activity this weekend.” 
“Mom, it’s okay,” said my daughter.  “It really needed to be done.” 
“Yeah, that wasn’t so bad,” said my son.  “Actually, it was kind of fun.”  The kids agreed. 
The next day, we sat down to do our family meeting.  It came time to tell a family achievement, something that we were proud about with our family.  The past few times, the two older boys had passed on speaking.  This time, they wanted to talk.  “I just want to say something,” said one of my older sons.  “I’m proud of us as a family that we pulled together to get the food and donate it to the other people.”
“And we didn’t argue,” said my other son. 
“Me, too,” said my daughter.  “I’m proud of us that we did it together.”
My husband and I looked at one another.  We didn’t know what to say.  Were they really saying this?  Did they actually enjoy themselves? 
“It was a great family activity,” said my son.  The others nodded in agreement. 
What?  Was he saying what I thought he was saying?  Or, as my own father would say, “Would wonders ever cease?”  I’m not quite sure what that means, but it seemed appropriate. 
“Well, we’re proud of you all, too,” said my husband.  I opened my mouth to add my own praise.
“Now, I want to be the timekeeper,” interrupted my daughter.
“No, I do!  You were the timekeeper last week!” said my youngest son.
“YOU have been the timekeeper for two times in a row!,” yelled my daughter. 
“I’m going to be the timekeeper!” yelled my second son. 
            My husband and I looked at one another and smiled before intervening in the argument.  Well, it was nice while it lasted…they came together to help out their brother, helped many others, had fun and enjoyed one another’s company…how did that happen?! 

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