My Slice of Life from 2014… It Was All About Onions
Celebrating the end of each year by reflecting on things that mattered is always something I enjoy doing. Believe it or not something that mattered to me this past year was our, now famous, onion story. During the fall of 2014 onions came to represent something very unique to the kids of Room 208 and I. Oddly enough they came to represent wonderful things like love and caring.
Let me backtrack a bit and tell you that we have a small garden at our school. This small garden is on blacktop. Our whole playground is on blacktop. As you can see, we don’t have a great playground. Let’s just say that it is lacking. So we did what most folks do when they are lacking things. They somehow make it better. We built and planted a small garden. In one of our beds we planted and cared for onions. The onions, about 100 of them, were going to be evenly divided between our school cafeteria and the local homeless shelter. Then IT happened. Our onions were stolen. That began quite a frenzy that led to our story first getting local attention, then state attention, then national attention. When the AP picked up our story, all we heard about, talked about, read about were onions. People all over the country cared about our onions!
“Why onions?” you may ask. For months we asked ourselves the same thing. “Why do so many people care about our onions?” we wondered, as onions, letters, cards, emails, and donations from around the country came pouring in. Our onion saga began on the first Friday of a new school year. The day was hot, very hot. And we, a fifth grade class, were looking at a bed of onions that was planted the previous spring by a loving family and tended all summer long. The onions were perfect. They were large and their green tops were all toppled over, telling us they were ready to be picked. But it was so hot, too hot to be in the sun picking onions. “Let’s wait until after the weekend when it cools off a bit. We’ll pick then,” I told the kids. The following Tuesday was a beautiful morning, a great day to harvest the onions. We eagerly went out to the onion bed and noticed that the onions were gone. Totally gone. While there were several tiny immature onions left behind, the harvestable onions we saw only days earlier were gone. “Who took the onions?” the kids cried out in unison. We were shocked. This, we didn’t realize at the time, was the beginning of our onion story.
The police were called and the onion theft was reported. “What was stolen Ma’am?” “Onions,” was the reply. “Tell the paper,” my husband suggested. “Neighbors need to know so they can keep an eye on the children’s gardens.” So the paper was called and a column was written. And that’s when it all began. First Mr. Lessing said, “It’s on USA Today!” Later that day he said, “The AP picked the story up!” “It’s on the ticker tape across the top of the MSN webpage!” said Mrs. Jordan. Then our first email arrived, “So sorry to hear about your onions.” “The theft of your onions broke my heart,” said another. And the school office phones started ringing off the hook. The secretaries and principal spent the day (days actually) listening into the receiver of their phone flabbergasted and replying, “Thank you so much for your support.” “Whaaaat?” cried the kids! “Why do so many people care about our onions? They were just onions.” Well, it turns out that they weren’t just onions. The letters, phone calls, and deliveries taught us that they were so much more to so many people. They were a symbol. A symbol of good and love and caring by a group of kids who grew some onions to give away to others in need.
Well, as they say, the rest is our onion history. Onions, cards, donations, letters, love, caring, encouragement, support came from as far away as Washington, Oregon, and California, and as close by as Unity and Liberty. They came from places such as Texas, Georgia, Nebraska, and New York. Cash from the passing of a hat at a Boy Scout meeting in Colorado. A generous monetary donation from a former Secretary of Health and Human Services. Money for “leaders” her letter said. “To continue your goal of sharing food with those in your community,” said another. 1,000 pounds of onions were received and shared with organizations in our community. Organizations who were so thankful for the delicious looking onions. The first to receive these bountiful donations was our school cafeteria. Then it was the homeless shelter, church food pantries, soup kitchens, and sandwich programs. But the real bounty, the bounty of love, was received by my students. Each day at school they experienced the outpouring of love from total strangers. They watched generous, kind people walk into our classroom with bags of carefully tended onions from their gardens. “For you to donate the way you wanted to,” they all said.
As the days passed and the onions and letters continued to pour in, it became more and more clear how much this story meant to so many people. So as I reflect on 2014, I think about onions and wonder how tomorrow, New Year’s Day I will cook up some onions to celebrate the love and caring that was delivered from so many people to my kids.
And a creative writing piece about Super Onion Girl:
Written by one of the students pictured with her. When Sara from a local farm food bank, Veggies for All, read about our onions she came to donate some of their onions. My kids were speechless as this was the first onion donation. One little girl in class was so in awe of her that she immediately created her own story to represent what was happening. She created, Super Onion Girl! How’s that for a new role model?
Our “onion” display case. People from all over town came in to read our letters, research, articles.
In case you missed it here are a few links to stories about our onions –
But if you Google search Hall School Onions you will find reports on Fox News, MSNBC, Rolling Stone…on and on!