Today was my reading day at a local urban elementary school. I have one student, my reading buddy, and we spend one hour together every Monday. The purpose of the reading program is to give the student a mentor that will listen to the student read, will encourage, and will show interest in the student’s progress. Usually we read in the library, but today we could not, so we sat outside under a giant live oak in the front of the school building. We rested under the branches, by the parking lot, across from the giant chain link fence separating the school from the busy road. I brought a book that I thought would be fun to look through, and maybe to read a few sections, Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We read the first couple of pages, about Laura’s little cabin in the big woods, in a place with no neighbors or even other buildings. All she could see were trees. All she could hear were trees rustling and the wildlife that lived in the woods.
I asked my young reading buddy what she thought of that. I could tell she could not even imagine such a thing. We decided to close our eyes and listen and say what we could hear. She said, “cars, trucks, wind in trees, birds, airplane.” She didn’t mention the two ladies yelling at each other in the neighborhood across the street. I said, “What would it be like with no cars, trucks, or airplanes?” She seemed puzzled. This was just too far out of her experience.
I remember hiking in Georgia along the Appalachian Mountains, on a trail called the Wild Cat Mountain trail. I came to my favorite spot, a large rocky outcrop on top of the mountain with views of nothing but more mountains, I found an entire summer camp of inner city teens sitting on the rock, resting and enjoying the view. At first I was disappointed to not be alone, but after a few minutes I could tell what a special experience this wilderness hike was for these kids. I was glad there were there, and am glad.