Bad Coffee

Today marks the final week of the Buckeye Leaders at the Library program for the 2015 fall semester. As I write this, I am sitting in my small apartment, bad coffee at my right hand, taking a break after organizing the snacks for the five weekly sites. This has become my routine. On Mondays, I get up for class, then meet my coworker to pick up a tremendous amount of goodies for the kids: everything needed for the upcoming week. I get back, toss everything across the small kitchen table and divide it up into five bulging grocery. I tie the flimsy plastic arms together, hoping they don’t rip this time, then take a seat. I may get up to wash some dishes or complete a small piece of homework before I leave for the Linden program. Other times I’ll just have a good sit. And some bad coffee.

This is my Monday now. It is mostly dedicated to BCEC work; I prep for the subsequent three days at different Columbus Metro Library branches, helping out with homework, reading, and doing my best to put on great programs for great kids – not to mention the snacks. It was daunting at the beginning, but I settled upon a way to make it work. I spend twelve hours each week directly working with kids from Linden, Livingston, Franklinton, and Hilltop. We also have a program at MLK, but it happens at the same time as another. It kills me that I can’t be there as well. I spend about another five hours in transit. I am dropping off supplies for the folks at MLK, going to and from all of the branches, giving volunteers rides, and picking up supplies every Monday. I spend another three hours or so doing everything else it takes to keep the engine running. What supplies did I forget? Did I follow up with those interested volunteers? How many people do I need to interview today?

At times like this, having a good sit can be intoxicating. Sometimes it calms me down, but other times, I just want to stay glued to the chair. Sometimes I don’t want to start the week and drive past high to 17th to Cleveland and go north to Linden. Sometimes the selfish part of me just wants to stay in my apartment, clean some dishes, put on music, and drink bad coffee. This is the same part of me that hits the snooze button in the morning when I need to catch up on prep for classes. You likely have a similar version of your self you’ve come to know over the years.

But I always go. And as soon as I am there, I can’t even remember the part of me that would do anything else with my time. A couple snapshots of things that have happened this year: kids at Linden in teams helping each other make butter like it was the most important task of the day; kids at Livingston having an impromptu meditation session as a throwback to an earlier week’s lesson; kids at MLK being challenged by programs on DNA, fractals, and optics, presented by OSU’s budding experts in those fields; kids at Franklinton running back and forth to sort rubbish for a recycling relay; kids at Hilltop insisting to act out stories for each other when we had only planned to write them; kids opening up about the family member’s they’ve lost over the years, then turning the page and continuing to read their short book to you.

There are some difficult days. Sometimes I feel as bad as my coffee tastes. Sometimes I think it’s not doing any good and that the problems that these children face are bigger than anything I will ever face. But then I have a good sit and think. I reframe and recenter. All experiences, great and terrible, impel me onward, giving me the fuel to keep bringing my bundles of snacks to the kids who run up for a hug and make fun of my hair.

So I’ll stand up now. And stay hopeful. And keep shuffling toward a better Columbus.

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