In sixth grade, we spent a week at Outdoor School. I’d grown up camping, so I was in my element, as much as any insecure 12-year-old can be. We stayed in cabins with teenage counselors, spent all day outside, drew pictures about the water cycle, and took time to really notice lichen.
To be clear—I did then, and still do, enjoy taking time to really notice lichen.
One night, a big group of us were in a cabin before bed. One of the male counselors gave us a challenge: if we could think of something that didn’t change, he would cut off one of his dreadlocks.
The lesson here, of course, was that everything changes. He’d never had to cut off a dreadlock, despite posing this question to many groups of kids. (Maybe he was adult staff, not a high schooler? Sixth grade was a long time ago.)
Some kids tried to stump him, to no avail. Then my friend Kim raised her hand.
“Your social security number.”
He tried a few arguments, but Kim, short, smart, bubbly, shot them all down. Finally, he had to concede. “Should we get some scissors?” someone asked.
In answer, the counselor gravely pulled out a large knife and walked out of the room.
This drama a strong effect on the children from the suburbs.
He returned with a dreadlock in hand. Kim took it happily.
I think she kept it for a while.