Although unsure of what I was suppose to talk about, I went anyway. Although a bit nervous about talking to a class of college students, I figured they were probably like my former high school students who I taught and entertained for 21 years. Although I had only been in contact with their professor, who found me through that news article, for less than a week, I figured she couldn’t be too dangerous and I would be meeting her in a public place, the same place where I had obtained my college degree all those many decades ago. However, my biggest quandary was what I would say to a nutrition class.
Professor Ireland joked about stalking me when she introduced me to her 1 o’clock class on a Friday afternoon. I was impressed that the students were all in their seats when she and I entered the classroom. No one running in at the last minute and snagging the only remaining seat. All 50 students were there, ready for class. They were attentive. They were interested. They had come to hear me tell my story about working with small children in a part of town that few knew about. The university is a whole world away from the neighborhood I go to twice a week to have lunch with and read to first graders.
The first thing I said to this class of very bright, very motivated students who are working to obtain a degree in dietetics, is to please not leave Fresno after they graduate. On my drive to the campus, I had pondered why I do what I do and why I would want others to do likewise, and the best thing I could come up with is that I care about the community and I want to do my best to help others be their best. I want others to join me in that work. So that was my opening gambit. Please stay here and do good work, with good people, for the good of the community.
Second, I described the school chaplain’s position and even offered brochures to those who might be interested in doing similar work. Only then did I launch into my work with the students in the cafeteria at lunch time, the main reason the professor had “stalked” me to come present to her class about how to get children to eat nutritious school lunches. Professor Ireland had, in a previous life, been a food service director for school districts in the San Joaquin Valley. She believed that eating with children, talking about the food and demonstrating how good it is, could help promote healthy eating in children.
The class period of one hour flew by. Good questions were asked. Constructive comments were made. All of the brochures were taken by the end of class. Professor Ireland was pleased. Whew! Guess I did better than I had expected.