Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Building Community for Our Children

By K.C. Compton


Tags: K.C. Compton, Building community, Raising children,

KC ComptonWhen the doorbell rang on Saturday morning, I wasn’t expecting anyone and wasn’t looking forward to interruptions. I had plans, and Important Stuff to Do.

I went to the door and instantly had to restrain my bouncy pup, who simply can’t hear children’s voices without wanting to join the party.

And it was a party. Three little girls, hovering in the 8 to 10 age group, bobbed and weaved outside my door. One wore a pink tutu over her jeans and the other had glitter on her cheeks, remnants from whatever previous game they had been playing.

Cheeks all a-flush with excitement, the eldest – who had either been elected to or simply commandeered the role of spokesgirl – quickly explained.

“We’re playing a game with another team of kids and are trying to see how much silly stuff we can trade in the next 20 minutes!

“This is what we’re trading,” she said exuberantly, holding up a half-used bottle of bubbles liquid.

“Well, my house is full of pretty silly stuff, so give me a minute,” I said, not certain what I might dig up back in my “office,” which, looked at in another light, could be called “the catch-all.” As soon as I entered the room, I saw the grail and grabbed it.

It was a vintage fake Christmas corsage, all turquoise and white and feathery, that my beautiful, inventive daughter-in-law had affixed to my gift this year. I hadn't been sure what to do with it after the initial amusement on Christmas morning, but I liked it because it reminded me of my kids. I left it out on my supply cabinet where it gave me a brief smile whenever I saw it.

Perfect! And my son and daughter-in-law would love that it became part of this game.

I took it to the door and presented it to the girls, who were appropriately impressed. They thought it was really pretty but agreed with me that it was also very silly. So they gave me their bubbles, I turned over the corsage and they bounced back down the driveway. I heard them shrieking and giggling as they galloped to the next neighbor’s house.

There are so many levels of pleasure for me in this little vignette. First is just the happiness of being in the presence of giggly little girls with that mischievous light in their eyes. I don’t know these girls’ names, but I see them plenty, playing in their driveway and bopping around the neighborhood. In their shouts and cries I hear the echo of my own girlhood, when my sister and I were the ones tearing around, inventing adventures and challenges and trouble with the twins across the street.

I love that our neighborhood is safe and friendly and full of families, and that the kids are mostly sweet and appropriately managed. I love that this couple across the street plays with their children and lets them play outdoors – or insists that they go outside. I actually get to see them. They aren’t holed up indoors in front of electronic devices; they’re outside sharing the music of their laughter and the familiarity of their sibling fusses, just like children of old. Like, say, of my generation. The young ‘uns in my neighborhood have a freedom that I think is increasingly rare.

I wish all the world – literally, all the adults everywhere – could stop whatever else we’re doing and devote ourselves to making life sweet and safe and free for the children. Not to make the children the center of attention, which makes them narcissistic and nuts, but to make the foundational value of every single community that the children are getting what they need to be healthy, smart and free. Just that context would give rise to the actions that would nourish our world and correct so much environmental, social and political lunacy.

Isn’t it strange that such a simple desire could be viewed by so many as far too lofty a goal?

What I love about our GRIT community is that I honestly believe that we are engaged in accomplishing precisely this. We are committed to diverse communities and families in which we get along, and to raising our food and conducting our businesses in a way that has worked in this country for generations and has the promise of workability for generations to come.

They don't know it, but those are thoroughly GRIT-ty Girls across the street.

kc compton_2
4/16/2010 2:44:26 PM

Hi Shannon--Thanks for the comment. Yes, their kid-years go by so quickly, and so often we seem to have our attention on all that's not getting done or the ways we're falling short of some vision of perfection we have. So much better, I think, to savor the sweetness of their childhood. Sorry about the triple posting. I was responding to Dave, but I didn't mean to be quite so enthusiastic! :=] --KC


s.m.r. saia
4/16/2010 6:27:16 AM

What a great story. It make me think of how quickly my little girl (four next week) is growing up; it made me both happy and whistful. Thanks for sharing it!


kc compton_2
4/12/2010 2:45:50 PM

What a great story, Dave, and how lucky your grandson is. I predict you have a gardener in the making there, with all that adventure in the dirt (or else lots of little trucks will be planted--which is what MY son always thought to do with piles of dirt, whether or not there were tomato plants in it). The neighborhood is lucky to have you holding down the Grandpapa anchor--a very important tether for everyone in the community. I hope you'll give us periodic updates on your energetic summer! --KC


kc compton_2
4/12/2010 2:36:40 PM

What a great story, Dave, and how lucky your grandson is. I predict you have a gardener in the making there, with all that adventure in the dirt (or else lots of little trucks will be planted--which is what MY son always thought to do with piles of dirt, whether or not there were tomato plants in it). The neighborhood is lucky to have you holding down the Grandpapa anchor--a very important tether for everyone in the community. I hope you'll give us periodic updates on your energetic summer! --KC


kc compton_2
4/12/2010 2:34:51 PM

What a great story, Dave, and how lucky your grandson is. I predict you have a gardener in the making there, with all that adventure in the dirt (or else lots of little trucks will be planted--which is what MY son always thought to do with piles of dirt, whether or not there were tomato plants in it). The neighborhood is lucky to have you holding down the Grandpapa anchor--a very important tether for everyone in the community. I hope you'll give us periodic updates on your energetic summer! --KC


nebraska dave
4/12/2010 12:57:53 PM

K.C., I think you are so right on with the neighborhood thinking. I live in one of those neighborhoods as well. In the surrounding houses there are no less than 12 kids in four houses. The neighborhood is alive with the ring of children playing. Before retirement the night shift was my friend so during the day while sleeping my driveway became the launching pad for hot wheels. With windows wide open and shades up my psyche just knew the neighborhood was in order as the sounds of playing children lulled me to sleep. At times I would have to complain to the neighbor next door that I hadn’t seen a new chalk drawing on my driveway yet this week. This week my grandson has come to live with his mother in my home so what better neighborhood to teach a young lad of five about life. On the first day after arrival the first thing he wanted was to play in the flower bed dirt. I instructed him that if he wanted to play in the dirt I would show him where he could play. I directed him around to the side yard where I had a huge pile of dirt and gave him a garden trowel and a hand cultivator. His eyes lit up and as his imagination started and he was looking for gold, found rocks that looked like diamonds, and couldn’t thank grandpa enough for getting him this pile of dirt to play in. Imagine that; no high tech game; no fancy movie filled with 3D graphics; just a pile of dirt and a couple of gardening tools. This summer will be filled with …. energy.