The curiosity of children is contagious, but it seems to die with age.
In San Isidro, when one child appears with a plastic bag and a
purpose, surely about fifteen others will follow. It´s a sense of
community that only children are capable of.
Last Friday, we organized a small trash-pick-up activity along the
streets of the town to teach the children about littering and to clean
up about three years of potato chip bags and candy wrappers trapped in gullies, sewers, and pot holes.
After putting up an announcement in the one store in town, three
children showed up at 2:00 p.m. ready to get messy. Within ten
minutes, the rest of the town´s children came to see what all the fuss
was about. Soon after, twenty children were scouring the dirt roads
and grassy banks of San Isidro with plastic bags overflowing with
trash and hands caked with dirt. In just thirty minutes they
collected 14 trash bags worth of litter, litter that these same
children had contributed to, and they admitted it.
Looking at all that trash made me sick, because I knew it would only
enter the atmosphere as methane, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide.
Four days later, two children stood outside our property with shovels
in hand, ready to dig a grave for the trash. We´d invited them to
demonstrate a more environmentally-friendly alternative to burning
every scrap of trash and polluting the blue, mountain skies.
As we began to dig, curiosity served us well. By the time we were
ready to bury the trash, about 7 shovels and 14 children taking turns
with them were covered in dirt, singing Enrique Iglesias, and learning
But we were slow. Eight year olds aren´t exactly the best at using a
pick-axe, and ten year olds are a little weak when it comes to picking
up a shovel-full of dirt.
Yet that day, a group of children working together, learning together,
laughing together, drew the rare curiosity of an adult. Busy with her
eight-month-old baby boy, her corn fields, her five other children,
and her jelly-making business, the last thing Lupe needed to do was
come up to the house in her pretty green skirt and black heels and
take up the pick-axe. But she did.
She broke more rock than 14 children and three gringos put together,
the muscles in her arms straining, her black hair glistening with
sweat on her temple. We applauded her when the hole was deep enough, and she watched with a smile on her face as the children, two of whom were hers, jumped into the pit, dancing to compact the trash. She looked on as we covered it with soil, and as the children thought to plant a make-shift wooden cross and put white flowers on the grave of our community litter.
We always hope that the activities we do with the children will be
passed onto their parents at the dinner table, but to have adults and
children working together is the best way to get anything done, to
learn, and to enjoy ourselves as a community, as a family.
As we were washing our hands, a few of the children ran off to climb a
mango tree, and it began raining mangos. We sat around sucking the
sweet, yellow flesh off the pits, chatting about what we learned,
boasting together of our successful community effort, feeling closer