Les Femmes

Dear Readers,
Last summer one of our daughters participated in The Fresh Air Fund, a project to bring low income children from New York City out to the country to experience a totally different way of life from the urban one they’re used to. Their family had such a great time with Meredith, who came again this year, that Larry and I decided we wanted to be part of the fun. We can never see our own grandchildren often enough, we thought, so why not “adopt” a few more. We met with the Fresh Air representatives, fulfilled all the requirements, and asked for two girls between 8 and 10. Bari and Monnie, ten and eleven, one from Brooklyn and one from the Bronx, arrived July 29th for a week of country adventures.

And what an adventure it was! For the first time ever the girls jumped on a trampoline, cooked hot dogs and s’mores over a bonfire, drove a tractor, took a hike in the woods, and walked across a “scary” suspension bridge. They each fed a llama a cracker held in their teeth. We climbed the Woodstock Tower for a view of the Shenandoah River to the west and Fort Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east. We picked blackberries, made wildflower bouquets, and decorated cupcakes. At night before bed we had prayers and then I read fairy tales and sang bedtime lullabies just like I do with my own grandchildren. In fact, we had them call us Gramma and Paka and delighted to hear them demand our attention with, “Gramma, Paka, watch me____ (fill in the blank).” Some things are universal with children!

One of the girls learned to swim in our pool and was proud to share her success with her parents when she called home. We were proud of her too, especially her eager, persistent practice all week. We talked about how the country is different from the city and laughed when the girls said they didn’t like the gnats. (Neither do we!) It was a fun-filled time and we look forward to doing it again next year. Barrie and Monnie went home with photo books documenting their adventures and a stuffed llama. I plan to send each of them a photo jigsaw puzzle as a memento of their week in the country. But the most valuable experiences of the week from my perspective were the relationships fostered among our two visitors, two little local granddaughters (almost 6 and almost 3), and two of our grandnieces whom we included in some of our activities since they also are ten and eleven.

Those who suffer from some strong temptation or emotion can find courage and strength in considering the pains of our Lord, picturing him undergoing them.

St. Francis de Sales Spiritual Directory

We hear much talk about racial division in our nation, but there wasn't any at our house. All of the girls were completely colorblind. Little Bianca (almost three) walked in the door for a week after the girls left saying, "Where's Bari?" She still misses her friend. As for Bari and Monnie — when given a choice to go visit the caverns or invite our grandnieces to spend another day with us, they chose their new friends. We all went to the potato chip factory and spent the afternoon swimming. As they got ready to go home, our nieces begged us to invite Ban and Monnie to come again next summer and exchanged addresses with their new friends so they could be pen pals.

When we went to meet the bus back to New York City at the end of the week, we had two sad little girls who certainly looked forward to seeing their families (They were both homesick.), but also hated to leave. Bari called later when she got home and admitted she cried "a little bit" on the bus. Even though we were exhausted (We're definitely not as young as we used to be.), we were sad too to say good-bye to these precious little girls.

The Fresh Air representative told us that many families host the same children year after year until they age out of the program at eighteen, and she knows a gentleman who still visits his adult "child" whenever he passes through New York City.

What is more likely to contribute to racial unity in our country: the politics of envy fostered by race-baiters like Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama or programs like the Fresh Air Fund that bring black and white children together to share experiences of fun and friendship?

I hope readers will consider joining the Fresh Air Fund team of families. You don't have to do anything special. In fact, I think those who create a Disneyland week by going to amusement parks and other expensive outings make a mistake. Meredith spent most of the week going with our daughter's girls to vacation bible school. In her exit interview she told the Fresh Air rep how much she loved her second family and how much she learned during the week. Because of homesickness, Meredith shortened her planned two-week visit to one, but the rep told our daughter Meredith was the happiest homesick child she'd ever met. "She loves her Fresh Air family!"

Les Femmes is a founding member of the Catholic Media Coalition a group of print and electronic publishers. See www.catholicmediacoalition.org

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