Social Justice Book Series: Finding Hope on Market Street
Although I try and limit the amount of news I watch, enough to know what is going on, but not enough that I go directly to a deep dark place, lately the tragedy of news stories has cut into my heart. The catastrophic hurricanes and now the most recent horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas has provoked a sense of hopelessness that has slowly permeated the lens I see the world through. I find myself looking at my own life and wondering how I can continue to sit comfortably on my couch while the world sits in such an uncomfortable state. I can feel myself numbing out- turn on the TV, take the kids to school, clean the bathroom, do some work- anything to distract from my feeling of hopelessness. Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and many other amazing books, reminds us that “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” I look at my children and wonder what type of role model I am being: a mother who is numbing herself and not taking action to love louder as Cathy Adams of Zen Parenting Radio inspires us to be in this messy world.
As I thought about how I truly want to show-up in this beautiful, yet complicated world, I reflected about which book from the Social Justice Booklist created by NNSTOY would push me into a more hopeful space. As I perused the list, one book caught my eye: Last Stop On Market Street by Matt De La Pena. This is the story of a boy, CJ, who is placed in some uncomfortable situations. The story starts off in the rain, then it moves to a ride on the bus while his friends take a car, and finally arriving in a part of the city that could be viewed as scary and uncomfortable. However, CJ, with the help of his grandmother, appears to be guided by the invisible yet powerful force of hope. I think our children and ourselves can all benefit from more hope in our lives and this story will bring just that. According to Valerie Maholmes, the author of Fostering Resilience and Well-Being in Children and Families of Poverty: Why Hope Still Matters, hope is state of mind that gives you the energy to get started. Hope is confidence in the future and the ability to leap into expectations and actions. Right now a good story like this one and a good dose of hope is exactly what we need.
In the story, there is a blind man on the bus. To help your child or students better understand what it is like to be blind, you can play the Trust Game. In this game, you have two students be partners or you can be your child’s partner. One person is blind folded and the other is the “leader.” The “leader” leads the blind folded person around a room or any safe, familiar place. Before you take the blindfold off, ask your child or student where they think they might be in the room. Once everyone has had a turn, debrief the conversation with such questions as: what did it feel like to be blindfolded? How did you feel during the experience? How did you feel as the “leader”? What do you think it is like to be someone who is blind?
What do you notice about the cover? What do you predict this book might be about?
What do you notice about the people? How are they they same? How are they different?
Define hope for your child or students. Explain to them that hope is state of mind that gives you the energy to get started and that hope is confidence in the future and the ability to leap into expectations and actions.Write this definition on a sticky note and tell your child or student to think about how CJ and his grandmother show hope in the story. Ask them to think about how hope helps the characters in the story. At the end of the story, you can discuss how hope can help us in our own lives.
How do you think Nana makes everyone feel when she smiles and says “good afternoon”?
Have you ever done this? Why or why not?
What do you notice about the people on the bus? How are they the same? How are they different? What do you wonder about the people on the bus?
What do you think Nana means when she says “some people watch the world with their ears”?
What do you think it would be like to be blind?
Idea: play a song to “feel the magic of the music.” Here are a couple of songs that you and your kids might like: Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole The Sharing Songby Jack Johnson.
What makes the boy give the man money?
How does he feel when he gives the man money?
Have you ever given anyone money?
Who would you give money to if you could? Why?
After reading the entire book, you can come back to this part of the book and have a deeper discussion around how we can help other people, places, and animals. I have made “gifts” for people that are asking for money on the streets. In these “gifts” I might put a bottle of water, a snack, a pair of socks, and a few dollars. It might be helpful to call a local homeless shelter and ask what might be the best items to put in the “gift” bags.
In light of current events, you can also discuss the recent hurricanes and the impact they have had on people and the environment. Together Rising (http://togetherrising.org/give/) or Direct Relief (www.directrelief.org) are great places to donate money, however you and your child or students can do additional research to find the organization you would like to donate your money.
You can also discuss helping animals. Set a goal for your child and you to save money to adopt or support endangered or abused animals. I love elephants and if you do too, Elephant Aid International(www.elephantaidorganization.org) is a great organization to support and donate. However, there are lots of other animals out there that need additional support from sea turtles to orcas, so ask your child or students what animals they are interested in helping and then find an organization to contribute to!
What does Nana mean when she says “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful”?
How do you think Nana finds “beautiful” everywhere?
What is a soup kitchen?
What do you notice about the people?
How do Nana and CJ feel? Why do you think they feel that way?
Have you ever helped at a soup kitchen?
Would you want to help at a soup kitchen? Why or why not?
What do you think the difference is between giving money and helping people or animals in person? (For example: CJ giving money to the man playing music vs. CJ and is grandmother volunteering at the soup kitchen.) Is each action equally helpful or is one more helpful than another? Why or why not?
Do you think you need to be brave to help other people? Why or why not?
What other qualities might you need to help other people? (For example: empathy, good listening, patience)
Do you think you need to have hope to help other people? Why or why not?
What do you notice about the characters? How do they feel? Why do you think they feel that way?
This is a good place to discuss where you and your child or students would like to volunteer. Explain that there are lots of different ways to help people and animals. You could volunteer with the elderly, with an animal shelter or pick-up trash. Ask your child or students what and who they are interested in and see where it leads you! I am hoping to take my older son, who is 8, to a homeless shelter to help serve meals.
As Maya Angelou proclaimed “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay.”Well said Maya. Let us all invite hope into our lives. Perhaps Last Stop On Market Streetwill provide you and your child or students a glimmer of hope. I would love to hear if you read this book to your child or students and how it goes!
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