Walking through the hallways of the Bishop Maginn Catholic School was not what I expected.
I didn’t go to Catholic School, but I was raised Catholic and heard enough awful stories about them, from kids who did go to them.
But Bishop Maginn School has a warm and easy feeling about it.
Sue Silverstein met Jon, Red and me at the front door. The kids gathered around Red in the hallway, as Sue led us to her art room.
Jon began raising money for the school a month or so ago. Many of the kids there are refugees, which is how Jon found out about the school needing money.
So far, Jon and The Army of Good, have filled the art room with supplies and helped create a Chorus.
The kids in Sue’s classes (Sue teaches a bunch of different classes and her art room is a place where kids come to make art and just be with each other when they have free time) helped create a music room across from the art room. They made posters, a mural and a hundred origami butterflies to decorate the walls. The Army of Good bought music stands which are lined up like desks in the room, waiting to be used.
There’s a real sense of community in Sue’s room. I immediately felt the comfort level between the kids and Sue. But they were easy with Jon and me too.
Many of the kids grew up in Refugee camps and honestly, it was hard for me to reconcile the kids I talked to, who were so open and kind and happy, with some of the horrors they’ve experienced in their lives.
I imagine that the art and music are, in some ways, healing.
I’m still a bit stunned from the visit. From the gentle feeling of the place, the kids and the dedication and openness of Sue. It’s similar to the feeling I get when I walk into The Mansion (the Assisted Living Facility where Jon and I volunteer) that I’m welcome, and the people there are happy to see me.
It’s a bit disorienting, even though Jon told me what it was like, I still didn’t expect to feel quite so comfortable there.
When we got home I got a text message from Sue who sent me a picture of two of the girls I met (they’re twins, they love to draw and sing, you can see a video of them singing here) copying my I Am Enough poster.
Jon brought the posters in last week and I gave them some more today. Sue said it was an important message for the kids. I love the idea that the poster speaks to them enough for them to want to copy it, that it crosses the boundaries of age and ethnicity.
Before we left, Sue showed me the vegetable garden behind the school. Some of the kids volunteer in the food pantry next to the school (many of the same kids get food there too) and when they saw the rotten and moldy vegetables the pantry was getting from the local grocery stores, they asked if there was anything they could do to get better vegetables.
That’s when they dug up some of the lawn behind the school and started the garden. This year they expect to grow and deliver even more squash, eggplant and tomatoes to the Food Pantry that they did last year.
This is just the kind of thing that make me believe that the school is a special place.