A few weeks ago I was responsible for tears shed in Washington State, Connecticut, California, and cyberspace.
Don’t be alarmed; kids do not cry when they read Maddi’s Fridge. I was very careful to ensure that the story gently entertains children. First- through fourth-graders laugh at eggs in backpacks and Vin Vogel’s great illustrations (have you seen that dog looking at the fireplug?).
It is true, though, that Maddi’s Fridge leaves some adults misty-eyed.
The same week that a librarian in Connecticut and a reviewer on Goodreads had tears in the corners of their eyes, a woman in Washington State couldn’t even finish Maddi’s Fridge because of personal experiences with hunger.
Years ago she was a single mom with two young girls. They ate nothing but pancakes for 6 months as she worked, paid rent, and struggled every day to provide food to her little girls. She called her now-adult daughter to talk about Maddi’s Fridge and had to hang up. She was crying too hard.
She, like so many other American parents, had been thrust into a situation – a single parent supporting two young children – that she had never imagined. She’s fine now. Her daughters are fine. But the weight of her story stays with her, along with the knowledge that not everyone makes it out.
It is this weight that some adults feel when they read Maddi's Fridge.
Why don’t kids cry when they read Maddi’s Fridge? Kids get that there are problems, but each child’s heart contains unlimited hope. They respond to Maddi’s Fridge messages of friendship and community.
Stories of hope are the focus of my school visits. We talk about friendship. We talk about promises. We talk about helping our friends who might have empty refrigerators.
We also explore the importance of sharing stories. Kids write, draw, and tell their own experiences of when they helped someone or were helped.
The fourth person who cried was a 2nd grade teacher in California. Tears in her eyes, she told me that two of the boys who read their ‘helping stories’ with me were special needs kids and had never before volunteered to share in class. Maddi’s Fridge had touched their hearts.
Our community is strongest when we share the stories that move us. Laughter and tears are the sweet and sour of life. They are the parts we remember. They are the heart of our stories.
To those adults who get misty-eyed reading Maddi’s Fridge: Thank you for caring and being touched by this story.
To those who have experienced hunger: You are not alone. You are part of our community and we are listening.
Over fifteen million stories of childhood hunger are happening in the United States at this moment. We can honor these stories by paying attention and taking action.