Homebound Letter 3 – March 20, 2020
Dear Stuck-at-Home Student:
Hi, my name is Matt de la Peña, and I write books. Usually I’m out on the road, visiting schools. Or I’m working on a new book. But right now I’m staying at home with my family. You probably are, too. Since we’re all in the same boat, I’ve decided to write you some letters over the next couple weeks. They’re about things I’ve been thinking about lately. And trying to write about. And they’re about some of the books I’ve been reading with my own daughter, Luna, and what they make us think about. You can write me back if you want, with questions or comments. I’ve been getting a lot of letters, so I won’t be able to respond personally, but I promise to read every one of them. And I’ll share some of your responses in future letters.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Sound good? Good.
Okay, here’s the third one . . . .
In my last letter I asked what you plan to do with your newfound boredom, and I asked if it’s possible that this boredom might actually be a good thing. I received some great responses, including:
Emma from Mrs. Pina’s 3rd grade class (age 8) said:
- “I think boredom is important because when you are bored you try to think of something to do and you might think of something really interesting or creative or something you really want to learn about. I will take that newfound boredom and make it into something amazing.
I love your response, Emma. And I especially connect to your last line. I, too, hope to transform what’s happening into something amazing. It’s okay to be sad about our situation. Or frustrated. Or mad. Or confused. Or anxious. But we can also be hopeful, right? At least some of the time. We can aspire to turn this situation into something amazing.
Felix from Québec, Canada (age 7 and writing in English for the very first time!) said:
- “We made a schedule of the things that we want to do. I am in 2 grade and mi 1 Language is French. When I bored I Look on the schedule.”
Felix, I’m so impressed that you’re writing in English. I understand that you already write in French and Dutch. Keep going. Keep writing. What a great use of your time.
But there’s one email I can’t stop thinking about. The writer will remain anonymous here. This young person, a middle schooler, says that there is no bright side to the quarantine for him because it’s keeping him away from his family. His father is incarcerated. And he can’t visit. And this young man’s grandmother, the person who takes him in every summer, is far away. And this summer she won’t be able to take him because she’s so worried about this virus. So he has nothing to look forward to. He’s stuck in a very difficult situation. So difficult, in fact, that he’s not yet able to see the rainbows.
Like I said, I keep thinking about this young man’s email. And I’m so thankful for his honesty.
I’ve realized it’s important to remember that this stuck-at-home situation is affecting everyone differently. I may be lucky enough to be with the family I love. But others are in a much more challenging place. Some kids don’t have a home. Some kids are separated from their family, like Carmela in my picture book Carmela Full of Wishes (illustrated by Christian Robinson), and this virus is another obstacle in the way of their family being together again. Some kids relied on school to eat breakfast and lunch. Even dinner in some cases.
We’re all so focused on what’s going on in our own lives. Which is natural. We only have this one body from which to perceive things. But you know what’s powerful? To spend some time trying to consider what’s going on right now from the perspective of others.
Have any of you read They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel? It’s a brilliant, brilliant book about perspective, about all the different ways a cat can be perceived. For instance, for us humans the cat looks like . . . a cat. Because this is our perspective. For a dog, though, the cat looks sort of scrawny. Because dogs chase cats. Most of the time. For a mouse, the cat looks terrifying. The cat changes depending on who’s looking at it. Isn’t that an interesting thing to think about.
Today I’m going to invite you to try something with me. Let’s challenge ourselves to look at this stuck-at-home situation from another’s perspective. If you’re living in a big, suburban house, imagine what it might be like to be confined to a small apartment in the city during this time? If you’re at home with your family, imagine what it might be like to be separated from your loved ones? If you’re in elementary school, imagine what this must be like for a middle schooler? or a high schooler. If you’re a kid of any age, imagine what it might be like for your parents right now? What about a parent who is working a full time job from home while also trying to help you with schoolwork. Or what about a parent who has just lost a job and is worried about keeping you safe? Do parents have worries you’ve never considered?
And if you’re a parent, what might this situation be like for kids? What are their worries? What is something they might be struggling with that you haven’t considered.
Sometime I think the most powerful thing about stories is that they ask you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a while.