Friday, January 24, 2020

Children of the Mission :: Babysitting Descriptive Personal Narrative Essays

Children of the Mission A few teenagers are sitting on the ground under a network of slides. There are a few younger children there with them, doing the various things children do at five years old. The mottled sunlight creates exotic patterns across the faces of those under the network of slides, and it plays with the features of the smaller children on their laps. A slight breeze picks up every now and then, but for the first time in a week it's a warm breeze that brings cheer, rather than rain. One toddler finds the camera stowed under a teenager's knee. This is an object of mystery. Another child grabs the hand of an older girl, showing her the round, convex mirror in the shade that shows a distorted image of the entire playground. For some reason, that mirror is the principal image I remember from our day of babysitting. It measured about two feet in diameter, and in its metallic reflection, every one appeared as a colorful blob, or, if a person was lucky, he had eyes and a wide-open mouth. Everything looked backwards and uniform in that mirror, and it fascinated me. The irony in my attraction to it is that just as when I looked into the mirror, when I looked at the playground around me that afternoon, I was blind to what was actually there. The sun, the breeze, and the delightful children all combined in my perception to look like something I thought I knew. It is only now, three and a half months later, that I realize I was not able to comprehend much of anything I saw that day. Our rooftop daycare is located about a half mile from the intersection of Wilson and Wilson in Uptown Chicago. It occupies the roof of the Uptown Mission and Homeless Shelter. The Shelter crouches on a wide, deceptively clean street where the shadows have eyes and the sharp stench of urine permeates the air. Last summer, our youth group came here as missionaries to try to "help" the homeless people. On this particular sunny afternoon, we were to baby-sit their children. However, since there were more babysitters than children, I wonder how effective our effort actually was. As I sat watching the kids run in and out, my mind flooded with memories of my own childhood. I noticed that despite the difference between the adults who'd grown up in upper-middle-class Topeka and those who were homeless in Chicago, there existed many similar characteristics between the children in both conditions.

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