First meeting with the Johnsons’

Our visit with the Johnson family went very well. Beth, the mother, is a kindergarten teacher at Tracy City elementary. She is very sweet and eager to help us with this project. We met Beth, her husband, and their three sons: Austin, Jackson, and Carter, at Papa Ron’s for dinner.

            Beth, a mother/ schoolteacher with three children and a husband that works unpredictable hours, amazes me. She seems to do it all, and somehow still have time to be involved in this community engagement project with us. Beth is a bright and happy character, and is very easy to engage in conversation. At dinner we discussed Beth growing up in Tracy City. Beth and her husband went to high school together, but never knew each other until later in their life. Beth told us about how she came to be a teacher. She said that she used to want to be a nurse and considered going to nursing school after she graduated. We did not get into discussing why she never followed this career path through. Beth was easy to talk to. It seemed that we were often distracted, mid-conversation, by the three adorable boys.

            Jackson, the middle child, sat next to me at dinner. Jackson is in kindergarten. He likes racecars and baseball. Jackson was adorable and very outgoing. He always wanted to have my attention. At the other end of the table were Beth, her husband, and Meg (my partner). At times, I would be listening attentively to either Beth or her husband and little Jackson would poke me on the shoulder and ask which racecar I wanted to be (he had drawn a racetrack on the paper tablecloth and used the crayons as racecars). My favorite Jackson quote was said at the end of the meal: “Are you going to be following us around?” Although I laughed and said “well, I don’t know if we’ll be following you around…but”, Jackson said “no, you can follow us around.” I was delighted to have Jackson’s personal consent.

            Austin, the oldest of the boys, is in 5th grade. He was mature, talkative, polite, and witty. He talked about playing baseball, and the ill sportsmanship of some of his opponents. He joked about his teacher being the one that none of the kids wanted to get. He was well mannered and never interrupted conversation. I was surprised how willing he was to contribute to our conversations. When his mother said, in regard to the people from high school that she keeps in touch with, “well, I’m not much of a people person” Austin leaned back so he was out of her view and started shaking his head from side to side. She then said “I have my small group of friends” and Austin, still shaking his head, opened his arms to emphasize how big her group of friends are. Beth, of course, noticed and playfully told him to stop.

            Carter, the littlest one, was full of energy. He was adorable, rambunctious and loved having the attention. Carter had lots of personality; however, he was never quite comfortable enough to engage either Meg or I. Even when he had gotten all eyes on him, his eyes would never meet ours. Carter was shy with us, yet not a shy character at all. Beth and her husband joked about carter being a handful, and said “yah we always joke that if Carter had been our first, that would have been it”.  They said this when Carter had gotten up from the table, run around, and come back to say that “he has to go now” (referring to the bathroom). I am very excited to get to know Carter better. I am hopeful that he will warm up to us soon.


14 thoughts on “First meeting with the Johnsons’”

  1. Natalie, nice description both of your first meeting and your reflections on building trust. It reminds me too of Dr. Smith’s distinctions among the different types of community based work. It is much harder to be trustful, as you suggest, if the perception is one group wants to change the other — or even sometimes more difficult that they will come for a short time and leave. Trust is both hard to earn and also a gift — and comes slowly. It’s very good to be reflecting on how you meet new people and what each of you brings to the table in terms of assumptions/beliefs. That the family invited you to join them for dinner at Papa Ron’s is very nice — and a safe first meeting place for them too. Their children sound very curious of you both. I know you will think about this but you might remember on the next visit to ask Jackson about his racecars, Austin about baseball (is he already practicing in the cold months — shows how much I know about baseball!), etc. Did the husband say much? What were they curious about with both of you?

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