I have a history with rocks. I majored in Environmental Earth Resources at university and people often asked, “what kind of major is that?” And I either said: “it’s mostly geology sautéed in biology with a dash of chemistry and computer science” or, “it’s just a euphemism for oil & gas.” It was through this major that I learned to love rocks. Most of my classmates dreaded our mineralogy tests and I secretly couldn’t wait for them. I longed to cradle bits of sky blue kyanite and vanadanaite the way that Carrie Bradshaw pined after a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos. On my runs along the Trinity River in Ft. Worth, TX, I would often stuff bits of ammonite and worm fossils into my sports bra. After getting a flat tire on the Mombassa highway in Kenya, I picked up a couple of bits of basalt. A chunk of shale from Ireland, a piece of limestone from the Marshall Islands, a handful of schist from Massachusetts; they are small earthly reminders that I was there, wherever that was. I have two friends (both mentors) who have a collection of heart-shaped rocks and so, along this dry river bed, I decided to follow suit. As an aside, it is a great activity for kids to practice quiet observation.
|The group on our first hike|
|Kim contemplating the landscape|
|Desi helping to set the camera trap|
This journey gave me a sorely needed boost of hope. With the recent crime wave in Greyton and Genadendal, I have twice been a victim of burglary in the last 3 months. Everyone seems to have a theory as to why it is happening, who is doing it, and when (if ever) it will die down. A popular theory is that this is the work of youth serving as puppets for older individuals with a tick problem (AKA, meth). It is easy to hand myself over to feelings of negativity, cynicism, and general distrust in my species. And while statistics offer some comfort, the pressing question is, what does it mean for me to feel safe? And how much am I willing/forced to alter and morph my daily operations to create a sense of safety for myself? I got to thinking, a sometimes-dangerous hobby, and I wondered about these kids on my camping trip; not only them, but ALL kids. What does it mean for them to feel safe? Do they feel safe at home? At school? Did they feel safe hiking with me and being far away from what they know as home? What part do I play as an (gasp) adult in creating a safer and more joyful world for children, but especially teens?
|Orienteering to build our perfect circle|
|Drawing skulls is not easy|
I was taking a walk through the Gobos River the other morning pondering the recent and rampant burglaries on my street. I felt thankful that I wasn’t present for either of my burglaries, but angry at the violation; the poaching of my safe space. And then, in that moment, I stepped on a heart-shaped rock. I found 4 more after that. One of the social workers at Harper High school told the interviewer, “I need to see where education works. And I need to see where success happens.” I could not have expressed it better myself. So far, I have collected 15 heart rocks, one for each teen that was on the trip.
I am still a newcomer to South Africa and I have so much to learn in terms of history, culture and politics, but one thing I know is that every human being has basic needs. Food, water, and shelter are obvious, but I think safety, moreover community, useful contribution and joy are often seen as luxuries in many communities around the world. I want to be a part of changing this. Because there is a difference between surviving, which is what I feel so many children are trying to do, and thriving, which is what children have the right to do.