I realise it is not grading season, and you are probably somewhat surprised to be hearing from me at this juncture. However, I am writing to you this morning to address a concern I have regarding a situation which has recently come up in class.
As I'm sure you know, there is a large amount of trading of various things that goes on among boys of this age; everything from pudding snacks to pencil cases tend to be fair game. Ordinarily I don't do much of anything to stop it, as I think such bartering games are relatively harmless. Every once in a while, though, I hear that some student is clearly making a mistake or trading away something he'll really need, and I'm forced to step in and put a stop to the dealing before someone ends up stuck without lunch for a week or in trouble at home.
Not too long ago, I got wind of a trade some other boys were trying to make with John, in which they were trying to get him to trade away his Shelby Cobra model car or his Futurace brand action figure for a Heath bar, a bicycle bell, and a safety pin. Now, obviously I know how pricey those toys of John's were; after all, I remember discussing with you when we ran into each other at the grocery how lucky you had been to even find either of them in the store, when you had expected them to have long since sold out of such hard-to-find items. So I was curious as to why John would consider trading them away for what seemed to me to be a paltry haul.
Anyway, I'm sure you'll recall a month or two ago, when John lost the top button on his uniform jacket, and had so much trouble keeping it closed? Well, apparently he overheard a couple of the girls having a go at him for looking a bit shabby then, and since has worried he won't be able to keep it closed properly.
I said to him, "But John, since we got you a new button, you haven't really had any trouble keeping your jacket closed, have you?"
He replied, "Well, no sir, but I still worry this new button just isn't going to work forever. So I thought getting something like a safety pin would make me feel better. A proven closer would keep my jacket from being a problem ever again."
While that may be true, I responded, what if the safety pin comes lose? Or what if a hole develops where you pin your jacket? He didn't know what to say to that. Even if it really does fix your closing problem, I continued, is it really worth trading away the best toys you have to keep a couple girls from teasing you? Then you won't have anything good to play with in the future, and you'll be expecting your parents to spend more of their money to buy you things you could have already had if you hadn't given them away.
Well, let me tell you, he didn't really have an answer for that one, but I wasn't done quite yet. Why a Heath bar? Or a bicycle bell? I wondered aloud.
"Well, I quite like Heath bars," he said, looking down at his feet. "They're tasty, and I haven't had one in quite some time. And my bike doesn't have a bell on it, you know."
"That's true," I said to him, "Heath bars are quite good. But you don't have to trade away your good toys for them. You can always pop down to the corner market and find a wide selection of candy bars. They may not always have Heath bars, but they have tons of different kinds of candy, and any of them would fix your sweet tooth, I'll bet. And I'm pretty sure you already do have a bell on your bike; I hear you dinging away on it whenever you're in the lead racing your friends here in the morning."
"But I don't like mine!" He exclaimed. "It's cheap, and it was made in Mexico!"
Well, let me tell you, his petulance nearly sent me into a fit of laughter, but I bit my cheeks and forced myself to be stern with him.
"Made in Mexico or not, young man, it still makes the sound a bell is supposed to make, does it not?"
"Well...yeah. I guess."
He looked so cute pouting I had all I could do to maintain my composure, but I did somehow. I have to teach this boy something about value, I thought, and forced myself not to smile.
"So what you're telling me is that you have a perfectly fine button on your jacket now that has solved your problems with closing, a bell that may have been made in Mexico and not cost as much as your friend Sandy Aigo's bell but still goes 'ding' when you ring it, and you were still trying to trade away your action figure or your model car for stuff that wouldn't work much better than what you already have?"
He hemmed and hawed, inspecting his shoes, and muttered something about still liking Heath bars.
"And there's a perfectly good sweet shop down the road. You can go after class is over, right?"
John finally agreed with me (though he still seemed a bit put out), and I sent him out to recess. But I thought about this trade a bit more over the next few days, and so decided I ought to write to you about it. What I'm worried about isn't John; he's a smart enough boy that he should be able to figure this stuff out for himself. But I'm concerned a couple of the older boys might be pressuring him to make these deals. Why I don't know, but you know how these things happen. Sometimes boys just get notions in their heads that don't make much sense. I heard one of the boys even offered to throw in a baseball card of some shortstop, but it was rather old and beat up and not a player I think was even all that good to begin with.
So I would encourage you to sit down with John and have a long discussion about value, and appreciating what he has instead of thinking he should trade for someone else's stuff just because it's different than his. I'm sure he would enjoy having a Heath bar, and a shiny new bicycle bell might look neat for awhile, but those toys he was trying to trade away were much nicer than any of the stuff the other boys were offering, and it wasn't even stuff he really needed.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me through my office. I look forward to seeing you again soon, and hope this letter finds you in good health. I also hope this can help you have a frank discussion with John about when it is and isn't proper to go dealing away your belongings. I remain your faithful servant,
Reginald Copernicus Alphonse Aloysius Baronhaven III, esq.
On a final note, I would like to offer my congratulations to our own Spants, who in case you hadn't heard, gave birth to her long-awaited first child recently. I hope motherhood treats you well, Spants, and gives you all you were hoping for.
The Baron's Playlist for the 29th of June, 2011
'"Bad Dream Mama" - Eagles of Death Metal
"Cherry Cola" - Eagles of Death Metal
"The Men are Called Horsemen There" - Sunset Rubdown
"Paper Lace" - Sunset Rubdown
"Peace in the Valley" - Jimmy Wakely
"Let the Rest of the World Go By" - Jimmy Wakely
"Interstellar Soul" - T. Rex
"Girl In the Thunderbolt Suit" - T. Rex