This past Tuesday, I made my first classroom visit with the fourth graders at St. Michael’s School here in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was a very positive experience for me. I enjoyed visiting with the children and was able to share with them a bit about our life and work.
The children had prepared questions for me, which I did my best to answer. A few kind of stumped me, asking what my favorite book or Catholic song was. I told them there are so many good ones that it is hard to name one. I tried my best, though, to think of some ‘favorites.’
These nine-year-olds were not the only ones learning that afternoon; the day’s events brought me to reflect upon the fact that we are blessed with life-long learning. The specific event leading to this, along with my classroom visit, was the recent donation of unfamiliar produce: tomatillos. We set them out by the employee time-clock for over a day, but very few were taken. Having studied Spanish, I knew how to pronounce the word and could safely guess the meaning (‘little tomatoes’) but I had to do some research to find out more about them and how to use them.
Although I had never worked with these before, I hated to just throw perfectly good food. As Sr. Rebecca agreed: it’s a shame to waste all that food when so many go hungry, I thought I’d try and see what I could do with these donations from parts south.
Tomatillos, I learned, are small green balls which are in the same family as tomatoes. They have an outer peeling (which thankfully had been removed by the donor). Tomatillos are used in sauces, green salsa, and chili. Someone offered the idea of jam, but I was quick to eliminate that possibility.
Can you imagine? Yuck!!!
I was not ambitious enough to make salsa as it would necessitate acquiring and cutting up peppers and such. So I took what I thought to be the practical, easier route, making a pasta/spaghetti sauce. Anyway, that’s a whole other story.
In the course of events, I learned some interesting things, including ways for cutting the acidic taste in sauce. I also learned facts about some of the chemistry behind cooking. I had to interrupt my sauce-making for a trek to the prearranged visit to the school.
Riding back from St. Michael’s School, I realized with gratitude, that we, as humans, are really privileged with the gift of life-long learning. Although school children, like the ones I had just visited with, have a more intensive learning experience, I am grateful for the gift of learning that I am blessed with in some unexpected ways.
Sr. Christina M. Neumann