Each morning I tucked a crumpled foil pouch of mushrooms in my pocket before I walked two miles from my little country shack to the truck stop on the highway where I earned my spending money. As I was trudging down the side of the restaurant building in the early morning, I peeled open the packet and steeled myself to munch on the brown fungi. It tasted like shit. I had good gums then, and with a slick flick of my tongue I cleared the telltale spores from my teeth.
One day I was training a cute little girl who had just been hired in her very first job. Ever helpful, I gave her the secret to filling the bowls for the salad bar. I demonstrated by balancing the empty oversize vessel on one hand, and with the other hand taking the dulled silver colored serving spoon and scooping the macaroni salad up, throwing it in the air, and catching the yellow elbows, orange carrot squares, and green pea balls in the bowl.
“Now you try it,” I said.
With wide eyes, she said “I don’t think I could do that!”
“Of course you can,” I said. “Just let loose and have fun.”
I learned all about letting loose in grade school and I decided to reshape the meaning of letting loose I guess. You see . . .
Earlier, I remember, we were standing in several long lines designated by grade waiting in front of the doors to be admitted into the institution following recess. One little girl, with long red hair styled from her wild ride on the merry-go-round, stuck her hand up and asked to be let in early to use the washroom.
“I’m not letting anyone in early,” the guard said. “You all need to plan better and not ask for special favours that put you ahead of everyone else.”
“But I really gotta go,” Audry said. “Please.” And her arm started waving frantically and her feet started dancing and her hips started swaying.
Murmurs travelled through the crowd and the teacher at the front ordered us all to be silent. And little Audry let loose. I watched the liquid travel from under her plaid dress, down her green nubbed leotards, into the inside of her black and white saddle shoe. It disappeared for a moment then bubbled up the outside of her scuffed shoe and ran down the center of the path between the lines of students, changing course as it bounced by each rock.
Gasps were heard, and the teacher ordered us to all keep our eyes on him. I couldn’t help it, I had to look at the river.
Later, gathering my friends around me, I asked them to line up in front of the doors as soon as we were let out for the next recess. I said, “If we all line up right away, and don’t go out to play, they’ll know they did something wrong.” My friends did stand with me for a recess or two. Then, one by one they drifted off to enjoy their free time.
After a few days, a teacher suggested I go play. “No thank you,” I said. Next, my teacher came out and ordered me away from the door. “I’m not doing anything wrong,” I said. A few days after that, the principal came out and invited me up to the landing where he was standing.
As I drew beside him, he knelt down, resting his knee on the cement. He put his arm around me and cupped my shoulder with his big hand. Then he pointed to the kids kicking the black and white ball on the field. “They’re having fun,” he said. I looked, and said nothing.
Shifting slightly, he pointed to the children flying back and forth on the swingset. “Look at their smiles,” he said. I said nothing.
Then he had me gaze at the monkey bars. Oh the monkey bars, and my friends were there too! He gave me a little nudge and I was off running.
I’ve grown up now and a bit of activist remains, but my focus has changed. I know it’s not what I can do to make a difference–it’s what we can pray.