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Stolen produce brings unexpected lessons for Burlington preschoolers

Posted April 29, 2016

— Children at a Burlington preschool reaped lessons in forgiveness and generosity this week following the theft of their class project.

The staff planned to use a small vegetable garden at Holy Comforter Community Playschool to teach the students about nature and health. School Director Eva Green-Baysmore said, however, that someone walked into the church's playground late Monday or early Tuesday and took the produce the youngsters had been growing.

"Our younger class came out and noticed that their garden boxes were completely wiped out," Green-Baysmore said Friday. "They were very sad because (the vegetables) weren't there. We had planned on making a tossed salad with them this week."

Church Rector Adam Shoemaker said it was time for a lesson in forgiveness.

"I almost immediately thought to myself, 'This is the opportunity to make it a teaching moment,'" Shoemaker said, noting that the person who took the produce – the children have dubbed him or her "the Garden Bandit" – probably needed the food.

Student Marli Poole agrees with that notion.

"They just don't have food, and they need some, so they steal," she said.

Green-Baysmore and her staff helped the students make a poster that says they forgive the Garden Bandit but ask that the person doesn't steal again.

"They placed their handprints on it, and they wanted to put a sad face on it so people would know they were sad," she said.

The poster caught the attention of many in the community, and once people heard what happened, plant donations started pouring in, teaching the children the redeeming values of kindness and generosity.

"Having kids teach our community about forgiveness is so important," Shoemaker said. "The more I've thought about it, I think this is the way our world changes. Kids learning lessons like this who will grow into adults and be wholehearted and loving."

The students have returned to gardening, and the sign they made has been laminated and will hang from the garden fence of the garden to remind anyone who wants food to just ask first.


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  • Paul Stroud May 1, 2016
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    @Dean, Can't you do both? Can't you teach them about bad people and about forgiveness at the same time? Can't you point out to them that bad people do exist and you should be wary of them, but also teach them that where forgiveness is warranted that it should be considered as well? Not every one that commits a crime is evil....

  • Dean Morron May 1, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    .... Thank You, I am. I'm also a LIVE good Christian

  • Dean Morron May 1, 2016
    user avatar

    Paul Stroud : Indeed, we all need to teach our children there are people that do not follow the Golden Rule, even at such an early age. I realize you were being facetious in your rebuttal, but what would you do ?
    How about " Kids, there are bad people in the world, people that lie, cheat, and steal, some even commit terrible crimes. We need to be wary of these people.

  • Paul Stroud Apr 30, 2016
    user avatar

    You people all sound like good christians!

  • Fanny Chmelar Apr 30, 2016
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    Fool me once, shame on you.
    Fool me twice, shame on me.

    The school wasted an opportunity on teaching about securing yourself.

    Mommy and daddy always lock the doors to keep everyone safe and everything secure.

    Mommy and daddy always talk about not trusting strangers.

    They already have the framework for building up those messages in this real-life example.

    Instead "well, when you get burned, just forgive the guy and ask him to be nicer."

    I know they're only in preschool, but kids are sponges, and lessons in security are paramount to their safety in life -- and their parents already started that message!

    Perfect learning moment with "we should have locked it at night" and a sign saying "we forgive you, but don't want you in so we lock up now. (insert address of food bank) when you need food."

  • Paul Stroud Apr 30, 2016
    user avatar

    @Dean you are totally right, let's teach them about violence and retribution, give them weapons made of the remnants of their garden and start a posse to track down the thief!

  • Dean Morron Apr 30, 2016
    user avatar

    What happens when these children grow up and realize there are " Bad People " in the world ? Do they still forgive when other goods, monies or even life is stolen ?

    Maybe I'm from a different time ...... but this story line speaks volumes to me ..... Pansies are being raised. Teach your kids to stand up, fight if need be , or they can become complacent and perish.