Today two things happened that intersected with me in a Fat Acceptance type of way. The first was a newspaper article about a ten year old girl who raised money for an exercise path at her school, and the second was an overheard snippet of a conversation at a lunch spot I go to on Tuesdays between the employees.
First, the local newspaper has been both downsizing and trying to gain more readership (which isn’t working too well, as all of their changes in formatting are angering their subscriber base, but that’s a post for a different type of blog). Every week in their features conglomerate of features, comics, and want ads section, they do a story about an ‘exceptional youth’. Today’s story featured a ten year old girl who “raised money for the walking path around the school’s playground to help combat childhood obesity.”
The principal of the school is calling it a “wellness path.”
It seems the ten year old had to do a project for Girl Scouts, and so went to her principal to see what was needed. After the principal told her that they really wanted a “wellness path”, the girl contacted local landscaping companies and got one to agree to donate 25 tons of red rock. Then the girl held a garage sale to come up with the money for the delivery fee, and the school district did all the rest.
Oh, the “wellness path”? Yeah, it was a line item that had been denied by the school board last school year.
Now, I applaud the effort the ten year old went to in order to do this. It takes a lot of guts for a kid to go to an adult corporation and say, “Can you give my school the materials it wants to make this project happen?” And then to organize and hold a garage sale to come up with the delivery fee shows a lot of drive.
However. The school already had a playground. One would assume that, as an elementary school, they at least have recess scheduled into the day. And honestly, from what I remember of being ten years old (a long time ago, so I may be misremembering) walking around the school grounds instead of playing on the playground equipment or playing running games like tag and freeze and even red rover was considered punishment. The teacher didn’t want to stay inside on such a beautiful day, so made the misbehaving child walk around the recess area for the whole recess.
One of the things about the article that gets to me is what the principal said: “…together we came up with this idea to promote wellness in our school.” Somehow, I have a feeling that it wasn’t a “together”, but more of the principal finding a way to have her little pet project see fruition, since the school board vetoed that line item from the school budget last year.
And of course, the other part that gets to me is associating obesity with ill health.
I also overheard a snippet of a conversation between two employees where I usually go to lunch on Tuesdays. One employee was on her lunch break, another was working but conversing with the employee who was eating lunch. They were talking about the newest episode of The Biggest Loser that was just aired. Please note, I don’t normally listen in on other people’s conversations, but, at ten feet away from the employee nearest me, AND reading a book, they were speaking loud enough I couldn’t help but overhear them.
They talked about one person (I guess a trainer, I don’t know because I never watch that show) who was always too hard on the participants, and another who was too soft. I was trying to read my book, so I didn’t catch everything they said about it, not that I’d really know who they were talking about anyway. Then the one who was on the clock said something about how somebody (and I didn’t catch the name) is trying to gain 200 pounds so they can see how an obese person really feels!
At this point I looked up from my book. I couldn’t help myself. The one eating lunch said something about how that was just wrong, and the first one responded back with, “Yeah, that’s SO UNHEALTHY!”
I wanted to say that if somebody really wanted to find out how an obese person really feels, all they had to do was, you know, talk to an obese person. That an “obese person” isn’t some alien life form that has no way of comprehending spoken or written language (all things being equal and there being no developmental or other disabilities in said obese person). And that the person asking should keep their mind open to the answers they receive, listen with compassion and with an attitude of trying to understand.
Unfortunately, as I was trying to get up my courage to break into somebodies conversation, the employee on the clock realized she’d been standing still too long and went to clean other tables.
I will be writing a letter to the editor about the inherent falacies in the peice about the girl. While she is to be commended for doing something, especially a big thing, at that young age, the fact is, obesity does not guarantee ill health. By directing this child to do this specific project, the principal is teaching the child prejudice and judgement. The overheard conversation just shows how saturated the culture is with anti-fat sentiments.