If you ask my mom to describe what kind of teenager I was, she might say something like “a punk, 18-year-old kid who thought he knew everything.” And she would be dead-on accurate.
Like many teenagers, my behavior was sporadic and irrational.
In fall 2004, my senior year at Pius XI High School, I took a class called “Big Buddy,” a combination of community service and mentoring a group of freshmen.
Through the class, we regularly served at the St. Vincent de Paul south side meal program. I didn’t have a car and the previous times I had gone, I rode with a classmate or teacher. This time, I had arranged to meet people in the school parking lot around 5 p.m. I just needed my mom to drop me off.
She was scheduled to get off work at 4:30 p.m., but she forgot until I angrily called her at about 5:10 p.m.
Since I had missed my ride, she drove me to the meal site. I thought she’d just drop me off, but Mom insisted on staying.
My mom was one of the secretaries at Mother of Good Counsel School. She’s generally a cheerful person with an upbeat tone in her voice and she was always great at meeting people. She was a student favorite.
However, this time she was different; she was stand-offish and disengaging. We stood side by side serving those in line. It was clear she wasn’t comfortable, but I tried to ease her nerves by chatting with the patrons, showing her there was nothing to fear.
Clearly, she was out of her element and was not comfortable in this setting.
There was a limited amount of food, so portions had to be controlled and we were warned against giving out more than necessary.
One person tried to negotiate for an extra cookie and I told him, “Sorry, man. I can’t do it.”
My mom whispered in my ear, “Give him another cookie.”
I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but this was my mom telling me to break the rule, so I did. The person running the kitchen caught us, however, and repeated the rule and my mom understood we couldn’t do it anymore.
Eventually, as the night went on, her attitude began to change and she loosened up. However, she was glad when it was over.
I haven’t thought much about my experience with my mom at the meal program until last month when I tagged along with a group of students from St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc who went to St. Ben’s Meal Program as part of an “Urban Plunge.”
I saw the same nervousness on the kids’ faces that I saw on my mom’s face years ago. Their faces said, “Where am I?” Their faces looked uneasy at first, but gradually became more welcoming.
Read about it in “Students take ‘The Plunge.'”