The only thing better than doing a bunch of hippie crap is teaching somebody else to do a bunch of hippie crap.
The first time I did anything along those lines, we lived in Belleville, and a colleague who was particularly impressed with my salsa recipe came by for a canning lesson. We had a lot of fun. I got some help with the prep work, which can be tedious, and I sent her home with a few jars of salsa and a new skill.
A couple of years ago, I taught a neighbor to extract honey. That was mostly penance for a dumb stunt he’d pulled involving one of my beehives, but he really liked the bees and wanted to learn about them, and I won’t be at all surprised if he ends up establishing a hive of his own someday.
Last week, one of my editors mentioned she’d like to learn to can. She’s kind of fascinated with the DIY stuff we do around here, so I promised her I’d schedule my next salsa-canning project on some Sunday when we’re both off.
I like showing other people how to be more self-sufficient — partly because I’m an old teacher and enjoy watching their eyes light up when they learn something new, and partly because it feels as if I’m repaying a debt to someone who unwittingly did me a favor before I was born.
About 40 years ago, my mom worked for the school district in my hometown. A counselor who worked in her office made killer homemade bread. When Mom asked for the recipe, rather than simply scribble it down on a card, he invited her over and spent several hours teaching her to make bread from scratch.
One man’s willingness to share one afternoon of his time with a young secretary is still paying dividends 40 years later.
I like to imagine that 30 or 40 years from now, the children of the people who have spent an afternoon in my kitchen, learning to do something I enjoy, will be standing in their own kitchens, remembering their parents’ lessons and smiling at the thought.
To teach is to own a little piece of eternity.