I serve on the recess team, and I also have lunch duty. It's a great way to meet lots of kids. It's also a great way to see who may be struggling with food insecurity, who has family support in being taken care of, who is friends with whom, and who has no friends.

This brings me to Norman.

Norman is a studious, nerdy introvert who loves space. He knows everything about outer space. He knows everything about stars and planets, galaxies, and NASA.

Norman would like to be an astronaut.

One day, he brought in astronaut meals for his lunch. This attracted a lot of attention, especially from that group out loud obnoxious boys who can be mean if you don't keep an eye on them.

This this group currently consists of a kid named Doug, his brother, Darrell, and their best friends, Bill and Jim. They call themselves the We Never Stop gang because they're  fond of walking side-by-side with linked arms, interrupting the girls and other people playing games on the playground.

So the gang spies Norman at his table and goes over to ask him what it is. I am watching from the corner of my eye while pretending not to watch. I see Norman's face light up and he begins a lecture on astronaut food. The boys are interested and call over a couple of friends, and pretty soon there's a crowd with Norman at the center sharing all kinds of information and letting people have tiny tastes of the meals.

One of the items in his space picnic is hot sauce, and it's in this funky, packaging and pretty soon, everybody is dabbing hot sauce on their tongues. They're having a great time and they're cracking themselves up by watching each other's expressions as the heat in the hot sauce takes over their mouths.

Lunch ends and everybody goes to recess where more hot sauce tasting occurs, and then everybody goes back to class.

The next day, a couple of other kids bring in hot sauce from their homes. This results in a tasting party, where various kids come up to try various levels of hot sauce. Some of the bottles have pictures of fire, devils, and lightning bolts on their labels.

A couple of classroom teachers happen by looking for someone and they see this going on. Without saying anything to me or the other recess team members, they go to the principal to complain that there seems to be a ruckus in the cafeteria and kids are recklessly ingesting unknown substances and that could result in allergic reactions skin, lesions, mouth, sores, etc., etc.

The principal comes to see me to get the scoop. By now we are all at recess and the novelty has worn off so that kids are focused on playing rather than continuing the test testing.

What what has happened, though is Norman has been invited to play with some kids, and the other kids who brought in hot sauce from their homes who didn't know each other, who didn't spend time together talking to each other while swinging on the monkey bars. 

The principal comes out to see me and asks what's going on, citing the teachers as being very concerned and highly alarmed, and wondering why I and the rest of the team allowed this to happen.

I turned to the principal and said,

"Look over there on the field. That's the We Never Stop gang, except now they have a new member. Norman the NASA kid has now been invited to be with them because he brought in MREs from space. Now look over here at the playground structures. That is Ricky, Nick, Gus, Tamar, and Mohammed. They got together today when they brought hot sauce from their homes to share and now they're friends hanging out and talking. Ricky brought Mexican hot sauce. Nick brought Greek hot sauce Gus brought Chinese hot sauce, and Mohammed and Tamar brought hot sauce from Somalia and Thailand.”

"Oh," says the principal, " that's amazing."

"It is, "I say. "No one is drinking entire bottles of hot sauce. No one is pouring hot sauce all over everybody else's food. I think the teachers' concerns are a storm in a teacup."

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