"Here, you carry this rope." I handed him the coil of rope. It was what I imagined a fair trade for asking him to hold the gate open. He really wanted to lead the line, I knew that, and he knew that if he held the gate open for the class to walk through, he would automatically be at the back of the line.
He hoisted the great coil of rope over his shoulder and seemed to be satisfied with the state of things. "Good trade," I thought to myself, "All is well."
I turned to get the rest of the children organized to leave. We were going to the Climbing Trees. The Climbing Trees is a place with a great spread of hill and lawn with a line of trees at the top, perfect for climbing plus there is this great view down because of how the trees are perched on the ridge. It is a quick walk from the school and is on the outer edges of a local hospital. At the base of the hill is an old and gnarled juniper which I call the Green Castle. It too is great for climbing and adults cannot wriggle through its crowded branches. Bonus. Between the opportunities to run and climb, we couldn't ask for anything better on this day. The day after the 2016 Presidential Election. All of us needed to get out and under the great, big rainy sky. The rope, along with a bit of a shovel handle I found, would make a perfect tree swing over that swoop of a hill.
As I turned, he said to the other children waiting to walk through, "This is my rope. For my projects."
My! I! Me! Mine! Of course, it became HIS rope. I handed it to him, didn't I? But see. It isn't just his rope, it is everyone's rope. This distinction became a bit of an issue for me, and pretty much only for me because it was not an issue in his mind at all. He was holding the rope after all. "It's our rope," I insisted, and then I said, "There is no 'my' in that rope, it is for all of us to make a swing."
There is no "my" in that rope. I realized later that I say stuff like that all the time. "We" holds a certain meaning in our setting because of its cooperative model. There is a lot of "we" and "our" in a cooperative model. The "we" is pervasive and thorough. Community is first. This is why "we" and yes, I really mean "we" felt adrift on this day post-election. It felt different to jump on the "I" of the rope on this particular day. It felt more compelling and important to insist upon this distinction. "We" are in this together, "we" will hold dear "our" contributions to the whole. There is no "I" in that rope. We teach our children to look forward, standing in community. It felt so important to hold on to that.
An observation that has been attributed to William Gibson expresses an idea that is relevant to me these days spent making sense of the state of things.
We have the future inside the walls and garden of our little cooperative school and that space is made stronger because it radiates out into the homes of our families and teachers. It is multiplied by the children and families that have been at our school and have moved on to other communities, making them stronger in the process. We know the future surrounds us and is being nurtured and grown. And here it is about community and the strength of "we." The future may not be evenly distributed, but it will be. Yes, it will and it will start with "we."
When we got to the Climbing Trees, we built that swing, but the rope was also long enough for him to have his special project constructed. There was "we" in that rope after all.