Today we filled the preschoolers' morning with a field trip to the Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America. I can now state with assurance that most of my lifetime visits to MoA have been driven solely by my responsibility as an escort of small children.
If the Mall depended on people like me, sheep would still be grazing in the fields of south Bloomington.
Based on this morning, children with no disposable income must constitute a majority of the pre-lunch crowd.
The Aquarium is a commercial entertainment venture, like everything else at the Mall. For our kids, it was the first chance they'd had to see jellyfish, watch rays soar overhead and compare their adult buddy's size to that of sea life. Some tickled starfish, but for the most part they seemed to soak it all in at once rather than pay much attention to specific creatures or learning experiences.
Thankfully, that's the way they walked through the Mall, too.
Like most of these outings, this trip was accompanied by a contingent from a local corporation—in this case departments of Cummins Power Generation.
It was the most diverse group I've seen in my three years volunteering—not counting the fact that all but two were male. I didn't get a chance to speak much to the other adults, but I'd guess we had one African, one Chinese and a broad representation from the Indian subcontinent along with a three garden variety Minnesotans.
This was the America we keep reading about but not quite encountering in this state. It's the demographic spread meeting the economic divide. Kids without homes stolling through a monument to consumption. Strangers holding hands.
I don't know how well these trips inform our visitors about the kids or the work the shelter does, since the outings can seem closer to gym than to classroom learning experiences. Anyway, I appreciate their effort and hope some of them come away inspired to do more.
Because these kids will grow with every friendly hand they meet.