When Mimi heard the story of the Nobull Peace Prize she immediately said there were two women who should receive them right here in Santa Cruz. They are Jackie Russell and Gina Navaroli, known by the thousands of students they have helped over the years (and the hundreds of thousands they have fed) as The Lunch Ladies.
In addition to being Child Nutrition Specialists they have been running a program in the cafeteria for resource and special needs kids. The kids are given the opportunity to work in the kitchen and acquire skills that can allow them to find employment after high school. Some of the them come from emigrant families. Some are autistic. Some have social difficulties. The program provides an opportunity for kids that don’t quite fit in to have a group with whom they can learn and grow. They flourish because of this unusual opportunity.
The kids are given a grade and other special perks in this program set up as a special class. Some of the students have gone on to work or Pizza My Heart (a venerable Santa Cruz institution) and other local restaurants. Most of them find a sense of belonging simply because Jackie and Gina listen to them. They are expert listeners to the stories of boyfriend, girlfriend, school and home issues that their students are confronting. All of the kitchen staff participate in the program and allow Jackie and Gina more time to work with each individual on a personal basis. They even found funding for one of the students to be paid as a part time worker and hope to expand the program.
One staff member calls them Social Workers. They teach skills and nurture students facing personal difficulties in addition to making about 1,500 lunches a day for the local school system. Gina and Jackie are Love in action by my reckoning. The work that they are doing isn’t often recognized publically although they have recently been honored with an award from the WorkAbility Department of the school district.
My sister comes up with all kinds of interesting stuff from her wandering around the internet. One Sunday morning she sent me this link…
Why don’t you go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
My heart lifted as I tried to chuckle, snort and laugh all at the same time. Who is this, I wondered? Well the answer is Terri St. Cloud. I’d never heard of Terri so it was time for some research. In her BlogSpot profile was a link to Bone Sigh Arts. It’s a business of healing with beauty, truth and humor.
Further rummaging around and I found in one of those little profile Q&As that her favorite thing was laughter. On another her interests were listed as “walking, pondering, reading, figuring out how i work…” I was becoming convinced that here was a kindred spirit. The deal was clinched when I read this bit in her archived bio…
“i wrote and did watercolors to go with the words. and i walked an awful lot. i walked and thought and cried and talked to the universe. i asked over and over to be shown what i should do. and somehow i felt guided into doing the bone sighs. i honestly feel they are a gift from the universe. and i want to honor them that way. so, i made a promise to myself and the universe…that i would listen to my heart in all actions related to the bone sighs. little did i know that that would teach me to listen to my heart in all other areas of my life too.
even the name, “bone sigh arts” was a gift. since i felt that the work was beyond me in some way, i decided to ask for a name. to put it out to the universe. i meditated on a name. asked for it. and i received “bone sigh arts.” this is my favorite, favorite part of the whole story: when i got up from the meditation, i was not impressed at all with this name choice! i got up, looked up towards the sky and said “uh. is that the best you could do?!”
I cracked up. I also understood exactly why Bone Sighs are so special. Terri’s shift key is broken.