Every year Davis Academy 3rd graders go on the world’s shortest and longest field trip. They boarded busses and head to an amazing organization called The Community Assistance Center. It’s the world’s shortest field trip because the CAC is approximately 1 mile away from The Davis Academy. It’s the world’s longest field trip because the realities that the CAC addresses are very different from the life experience of Davis 3rd graders. Here’s a description of the work of the CAC (taken from their website):
CAC programs are designed to help families and individuals facing emergency situations meet the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. Our goals are to prevent homelessness, alleviate hunger, promote self-sufficiency and enrich the lives of children whose families are struggling to make ends meet. Since CAC was founded 25 years ago the center has touched 16,000 families in our community. In 2011 we served 5,000 individuals and families.
Our 3rd grade partners with the CAC because their curriculum dedicates time to understanding the history of Georgia and the important concept of “community.” Many of the children are surprised to learn that there are families in their zip code and in their community that do not have enough money for rent, fresh food, or other basic necessities. As we tour the CAC the children see the food pantry– sometimes full, sometimes partially full, and sometimes alarmingly spare. They see shelves dedicated to basic school supplies like paper, pencils, notebooks, and backpacks, and they see the clothing processing facilities with everything from underwear to formal wear. As they tour the CAC they begin to understand the importance of the collections they do at Davis in support of the CAC.
With seeing comes understanding. 3rd graders come to understand that volunteering benefits not only those who receive the toiletries and groceries, but that it also transforms the volunteer into a more loving, more aware, and more thoughtful person. They come to understand that “Thrift Store” isn’t only a song by Macklemore, but a place where people are able to shop with dignity. They come to understand that the world actually is unfair and imbalanced but that it doesn’t have to be.
They come to understand the idea of tzedek— one of The Davis Academy’s menschlichkeit values. At a very young age children are able to understand the idea of tzedakah— charitable giving. Tzedek, meaning “justice” or “righteousness” is a bit harder to understand because it’s much more abstract. Through visits to the CAC and other service learning experiences children understand that tzedakah is one of the ways that Jews strive to create tzedek.
The Davis/ CAC partnership is now several years old. The CAC is blessed to have many partners in the Sandy Springs community (though never enough) and Davis students are blessed to have many opportunities to pursue tzedek. It’s a short drive, but a long journey to the CAC and our students see and understand differently once they’ve been there and back.