Hairnets and Green Beans 101

My daughter and I recently finished up a couple weeks of serving meals at The Hope Center. It was part of her community service requirement for her Citizenship social studies class this year. We put in six hours serving hundreds of chicken patties and hot dogs, huge metal vats of mashed potatoes and green beans, chips and cake to hundreds of guys at the center. She got to pick where she did her service hours, and she likes The Hope Center. The people are so friendly and appreciative, despite the fact that the women serving their food are wearing hairnets.

This year was easy. My daughter only had five hours to log. When my son had to do community service two years ago, he had a little too much on his plate. He had to do 10 hours of service for Citizenship, 10 hours for the soccer team, and 10 hours for confirmation.

That boy would have climbed down into a Port-a-John for a signature on his service hours sheet.

Instead he dressed up as a deer and talked with little kids at the Arboretum about what it’s like to be a forest animal (“No, for the last time, I’m not a kangaroo and I’m not a rabbit. I’m a deer!”).  He dressed up in a cow suit and worked the crowd at Southland Church’s Jesus Prom, luring unsuspecting guests to the Moon Walk (“Come to the Moooooon Walk! It’ll be an udderly good time!”). He stacked thousands of cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup at the Salvation Army food drive warehouse. He worked the phone bank at the KET public television membership drive on the air (although several of them were calls he made to me. I kept upping my pledge, falling victim to his sales pitch and the promise of a Knit with Kathy DVD). And finally, he allowed preschoolers to climb and slobber on him four at a time, “do” his hair, and put together the same jigsaw puzzle (Fat Albert with a piece missing) 48 times at the Manchester Center Day Care.

Our public school district’s policy on service learning is a good one. I can’t help but think that a lot of things get done in Lexington because of high school kids with service hour sheets in their pockets. 

My kids are like most in that they don’t mind doing this work. They truly enjoy helping others, despite what people say about teen-agers and their sarcastic, gloom-and-doom, half-empty-glass, angst-filled souls. My kids may wear black t-shirts with death slogans on them, but they’re cheerful helpers when the chips are down and an A is at stake.

The school district powers-that-be are aware that this volunteer work is not much of a challenge. So in a way that only jaded high school teachers can, they attach a humiliation requirement: For Citizenship class, your project must be accompanied by a minimum of 10 photographs of you doing the work. Kinda like photo evidence, although with her brother’s knowledge of Photoshop, he could have her negotiating peace in the Middle East if we wanted to be cheaters.

At least four of the pictures must have the student in them. We have 10 pictures of my daughter, hairnet and all, stirring the green beans, serving the green beans, posed smiling next to the green beans (or is that a smirk? A grimace?), a close-up of her face, a close-up of the green beans, another angle of the green beans.

The Hope Center guys are very patient while I’m snapping these pictures. They wait quietly for the green beans. But I think I heard one of the guys mutter, “How about a picture of you putting the green beans onto my tray?”

I’m sure we bring back fond memories of their school lunch ladies. Either that or nightmares.