Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Socialist Egg Hunt

Today was our second annual neighborhood egg hunt.  One of our neighbors is gracious enough to open their home to all of us and the fifty-five children that live on our block.  I love this egg hunt and the people that are a part of it.  My neighbor made the rule that each child will get the same number of eggs. I love this rule.  I guess I have always had an inflated sense of justice, but it seems only fair that each child get a proportionate amount.

Tad joked as he walked down the block, the children, grouped by age running to find their eleven eggs, and called it "The Socialist Egg Hunt".  People laughed.  But as I watched the children, I started to notice something.

The toddlers and little ones, ambled down the block, content to find one or two eggs and sat on the sidewalk, happily opening the shining plastic orbs, and immediately eating their contents.  But the older children--the ones who had fully or mostly developed senses of reason made me take notice.

Some of them got their eleven eggs and cheerfully cried out "I found all mine!" and made their way on to the party to sit and half the plastic shells to find chocolate and jelly beans inside.  Some of the children cried in frustration, "I'll never get all eleven! The other kids are finding them all!" And their parents would point out eggs for them or even the other children who were finished would helpfully call out "There's one!", pointing at the pink and blue eggs peeking out of the snow.  Some children would dismiss the eleven-egg rule entirely filling their baskets to overflowing.  I even heard one child yell "I won!"

This made me start to think. Is this a microcosm of society?  Is it fair to divide the eggs evenly among all the children?  Or should the strongest, fastest, and most determined children get as many eggs as their hearts desire? But what about the two year old who can't move that fast?  What if there was a child who was blind who couldn't see the eggs? Or a child using a wheelchair who couldn't reach for the eggs as easily or as quickly.  Do we set aside eleven eggs for that child and not even let them participate in the hunt?  But I know this: We ALL want to participate in the hunt.

And then I thought of the question that would inevitably be asked: What about the child that's just moving slowly down the block not even really trying to pick up eggs? Does that child get eleven eggs too? I suppose the child would actually have to make the effort right?  But what if all the eggs were gone by the time that child got to them?  We would say, but that child is lazy. He's not even trying. Why should my child get less eggs just so that kid who isn't even working to get eggs can get his share? And isn't the kid who's a little small, but still getting all the eggs he wants just pulling himself up by his bootstraps to get them? I hear that question. It's being asked all the time. Just on a larger scale.  And that child who's not really trying? Maybe she just doesn't know what to do because she's never done an egg hunt before.  Maybe that child is just so terrified to fail that he doesn't even know where to begin to look for eggs. Maybe the child who seems so lazy grew up in a place where he NEVER got the egg and has begun to believe he doesn't even deserve one?  So what to do?  I don't know what the answer is.

I do know that my child arrived late and had trouble filling his basket, as people pointed out the leftover eggs on window sills and in hidden corners.  And I felt so frustrated for him, wanting him to have the same amount as the others.  As I dug in a hard-to-reach spot to get him an egg, one child said to me, her basket overflowing "I got here first!" And I wanted to say but you have enough. He hardly has any.  So maybe I am a socialist. I don't know.  But when I looked back at Coen he said, "Mom. It's okay.  I have enough.  I got here late anyway."

I told my children they could each eat the contents of one of their eggs and then go find some real food. They did and I placed their baskets up high and joined the party.  But later when it was almost time to go, I went to gather their baskets and found Coen's had been knocked to the ground. It's contents torn through and mostly eaten all up. By other children.

For a moment I got mad and went into the house like some sort of deranged maternal Robin Hood, rifling through full baskets to take back candy for my child.  But then I reconsidered. I mean, how did I know if the people to whom these baskets belonged were the ones who took Coen's candy. And what did it matter anyway.  I took my children's baskets and divvied them up between them--coming to five eggs apiece.

And it's only an egg hunt.  My kids have enough candy.  More than enough. They won't even make it through all of it anyway.  But still, I can't help wondering what the solution to all this is in our larger world.  I can't even imagine where to start.  Well...I guess knowing when I have enough is a start.  And then when I see my friend with only one or two eggs, I can give her one of mine.

I know it's not that simple. But I hope that someday we live in a world where we all have, at the very least, enough.

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