It was graduation day for the children who had gone through the anti-trafficking day camp. The administrator says, “This is a big deal. We want to have lots of their family there. We want community leaders to be involved. We want the kids to realize that they have been empowered and that it is a really big deal!” Then…nothing. No planning, no delegation of details, no meeting to say what will be done and by whom.
I was told that s’mores would be good. I told the teacher, administrator and the teacher’s husband that I would be happy to get the supplies for s’mores if he would bring the fire to roast them. All 3 said that would be great. He said he’d be in charge of the roasting. I said I would bring a knife to make sticks for the roasting. The graduation was going to be under a picnic pavilion in the woods behind the church.
I said I would make bouquets of wild flowers for the tables and cover the tables with plastic cloths and bring the leftover paper plates, napkins and cups I had from the last graduation. I came an hour early and began to decorate. The picnic pavilion turned into an elegant setting with a graduation feel to it. I laid out the s’more fixings and placed the weighted balloons. I had bought enough balloons so that each graduate could take one home. I sat alone waiting for people to arrive. The administrator came first. She did not say anything about the setting. She brought the punch and a pan of brownies. We made small talk.
About exactly on the hour, a car drove up and 2 of the girls came running up. There were no parents. They told me they were supposed to call when it was over and their parent would come pick them up! Really?
I had the wings the kids made in the trunk of my car. I asked the administrator if I should get them out. I don’t remember what she said, but I opened the trunk of my car so the kids could grab them on cue from the teacher/administrator. There was no plan to the program so who knew when or if they’d be needed.
The teacher and her husband came right on the hour – with no charcoal for grill. There would be no s’mores that night. There was one parent there and two of the children had not shown up at all. I asked the kids to sit in a row facing the one mother who came and all of us helpers surrounded her to make an audience. The administrator began to ask the kids what they learned this week. They did not talk. The administrator assured the mother they did learn something, but “You know, that’s how kids are. If they don’t want to talk, they won’t.” She had the game helper play a game with them. I told the kids to put on their wings to play the game. Once that was over, the administrator handed out their graduation certificates (once she found them) and that was that. Silently, I thanked the Lord that more parents were not there.
The teen helper picked up the balloons to rip them off the weight they were on. I told her to use the scissors I had brought and that were laying near them to cut them apart making sure everyone got one. I went to gather up my unused groceries and started to dismantle the decorations. When I made my first trip to the car, the teacher asked me if I was leaving. I turned to her and said, “No, I was the first one to come, and I will be the last one to leave. I have to take all of this down.”
On my way back to the picnic area from leaving off the first load of decorations in my car, I witnessed a horrible sight. The kids were standing in a circle destroying the mylar graduation balloons. I lost it. The tears started streaming from my eyes. I couldn’t help it.
The beautiful mylar balloons were being pressed till they popped, trampled and punched. The strings were pulled from them and they were laying all over the grass. The ones in the picture here are the 4 I rescued and quickly put in my car and took home. It is almost a week since the graduation and they are still fresh and lovely (in my bedroom). I couldn’t speak, I was too upset. I finished dismantling each table. Two of the children began to help me. They could see what the adults could not, and they were sorry. I told the administrator that I could no longer help with their program.
That is the end of the story. I saw the administrator yesterday to return all the leftover craft materials and supplies I hadn’t used. She didn’t understand why I was so upset. I don’t understand why she doesn’t understand. I will continue to work the Born 2 Fly program. I just need a different team. I reminded the administrator that that was her vision: 50 – 100 programs all over our county. I would be her first offshoot.
The end is the beginning.