This is the last week of school for my Lunch Buddy and me.
This is the last week for my Lunch Buddy and me.
He’s graduating from 5th grade this Friday. The Lunch Buddy program stops at 5th grade.
I always liked the last week and day of school. Not so much this year.
He and I were matched his first year at Robberson. He was in Kindergarten. We’ve been “buddies” for 6 years.
We’ve gone from me pushing him on a swing and him trying to push me and having to call his friends for help, to just walking around the school yard or sitting on a bench talking. His choice.
I was at his school yesterday. We had been sitting on a bench for about 20 minutes engaged in a good conversation. Other kids were on the grounds playing. His 5th grade class was eating pizza and ice-cream – a special treat for the graduates! Thinking he might be bored and wishing I’d leave so he could go play, I did my best to give him an out: “You know,” I said, “we’ve been talking a while and it’s been good, but if you want to go play with the other kids or go grab some pizza, that’s cool.”
“No,” he answered, “I’d rather just sit here and talk with you.”
We’ve grown. We’ve talked over the years about:
-what hurts us and what scares us.
-what makes us laugh and what makes us sad.
Each time, no exception, over the 6 years, I’ve left Robberson a better person for having spent time with my buddy.
I’ve learned from him generosity – every single time he offered to me some of his lunch. When I would bring him a bag of candy he would share with his friends. Everytime.
I’ve learned from him kindness. His life may not be easy. But his spirit is strong and sweet.
I’ve gotten in trouble some at the school. Kind of a lot. I brought a football one time to toss around with the kids, only to be told that there are no footballs allowed. Football might lead to tackling.
I led the kids in the old-fashioned game of “Red Rover,” and was confronted by the playground supervisor telling me that that too was not allowed. The game I grew up playing was too rough.
I developed a reputation of not always playing by the rules. Imagine that.
I started taking “Reeses Cups” to her as penance. It worked.
Yesterday was “Water-Slide Day” for the 5th graders. After lunch, the kids lined up to take their turn. I stood with two teachers watching the fun. Each time a kid would climb the steps to slide down the other side, the other kids would chant their name.
The kid would slide down amidst the chants into a pool of water sending sprays over the shrieking, happy kids waiting their turn.
I watched my buddy slide down, gave him a hug and left. I signed out at the office, walked outside toward my car but took a right turn at the edge of the school building instead.
I wanted to slide. Was this another breaking of the rules? I checked with the two adults still standing there – “Is it OK if I slide?” I asked them.
“Sure!” No rules against silly adults sliding down the water-slide. So, with the kids chanting “Phillip, Phillip…” I climbed the steps and in my best cannon-ball tuck, went down the slide.
“Come on, Phillip. You’re 62 years old.” I know. to me, that’s even more reason to go down the slide. As Pablo Neruda said, “A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him.”
Being a Lunch Buddy for 6 years has given me the opportunity to play again, to cultivate a “beginner’s mind,” a mind that sees things, hears things, experiences things as if for the first time, like a child. A beginner’s mind leaves me open to learn new things or to think about old things in a new way.
When I left Robberson School, my lunch buddy asked, “Can you go with me to my new school?”
I wish that were possible. Maybe it is. One thing is sure, he is more than a lunch buddy. He is a life buddy.