Today, I had the opportunity to witness a few of our primary community members prepare the tables for lunch. Although they carried out this work flawlessly, it did seem quite challenging. They are required to take one item at a time, carrying it from the cabinet to the table, which can take several minutes. It truly did resemble a form of art, placing each item carefully on the table in the correct order.
What impressed me most was the dialogue that was shared between our two, pre-selected lunch helpers.
“Can you help me tie my apron, please?”
“Here, you lay out the napkins while I do the spoons.”
“We need to get the water from the refrigerator, but I need your help.”
“Would you hand me the napkin?”
I enjoyed hearing these two young people interact and collaborate with one another. It was truly delightful! They found pure joy in the work they were doing, and carried themselves in such a way that they knew this was important and purposeful work.
Not once did I see the guides intervene because it was simply not necessary. She didn’t step in to correct their errors, or straighten a napkin that was slightly offset. The task was carried out in full by the two friends, who relied on one another for help.Setting the table can be defined by many adults as a “chore”, but for a child, it is a purposeful, meaningful, and fulfilling work that stimulates all of their senses. Through this work, they enhance their concentration as they focus on each minor detail, self-control as they learn to carry one item at a time, critical thinking through exploring and manipulating different styles of place setting, collaboration, delegation, and leadership skills, care of environment and care of others, and they develop a healthy self-image because the work is real and necessary. And because of this, we cannot call it a “chore” since it is joyful, purposeful work. Just like an artist carefully and meticulously paints or sculpts his masterpiece, so do our children carefully and meticulously complete their work.
They understand that this is important work, and gain self-confidence as they see the outcome of their efforts; a room full of happy children eating and socializing in a well prepared environment.