If you've been at a Tennessee elementary school lately and observed school-age children, you have probably noticed a worrisome trend: Far too many of these young people are overweight.
If current surveys are correct, approximately 30 percent of school-age children in Tennessee are overweight.
In contrast, if you had observed students from same Tennessee schools 40 years ago, you would’ve been hard pressed to have spotted an overweight student. What happened?
In 1972, many children still walked to and from school, which required students to participate in calorie-burning physical education.
After school hours, children did chores, played basketball on outside neighborhood courts, and supper was the only meal consumed between lunch and bedtime. And that supper meal very well could’ve consisted mostly of vegetables grown in the family garden.
In 2012, students either catch a bus to school, are driven there by parents or drive themselves.
Calorie-burning physical education is virtually nonexistent, and unless participating in sports, engaging in some kind of physical activity after school hours is an afterthought.
These days, it’s Xbox, surfing the Internet, around-the-clock texting, delivery pizza, and carbohydrate-laced power drinks, minus any around-the-house chores.
I suppose it’s safe to theorize society is the victim of an inevitable evolution. After all, it appears a decrease in physical activity over the past few decades directly correlates with advancements in technology.
Compared to 40 years ago, we now consume more calories while burning fewer. It's simple math, wouldn’t you agree?
Another key variable is attitude.
Whereas students had better degrees of respect and appreciation back in the 1972, such is not the case in 2012.
With that, I would like to introduce parents, students and teachers to Daisy Mora.
I first came across Daisy years ago when I read about her in a Life magazine article.
She was a 9-year-old girl living in the treacherously rugged mountains of Columbia, South America.
According to the article, "more than 1,300 feet above the roaring Rio Negro in Columbia, 9-year-old Daisy repares to throw herself over the abyss. Attaching herself to an old and rusted pulley system she drops over the edge before plummeting at 40 miles per hour along a zip wire to the opposite bank half a mile away — a vertigo-inducing journey she has to take every day to get to school.
"Nine-year-old Daisy makes the trip every day to get to lessons, with her 5-year-old brother riding in a cloth bag. Jamid (Daisy’s brother) is too young to ride the wire on his own, so she has to carry him with her in a jute bag, controlling their speed with a wooden fork.”
Not exactly the Hamptons nor Belle Meade Country Club, wouldn’t you agree?
While siblings from these two socioeconomic groups might have been fighting over who got to drive the BMW to school that day or who got the last piece of pizza for supper, Daisy and Jamid, I wager, were more worried about making it over a 1,300-foot drop while speeding down a rusty cable, with essentially, a burlap bag for a seat and a wooden fork for a steering wheel.
Further, I guarantee you that Daisy and Jamid didn’t have pizza for supper.
Back when I first read about Daisy, I remember thinking I’d like to see how well she’s progressed 10 years from now.
In terms of being more appreciative of what life has afforded them, it might pay some of today’s adolescents to take a few lessons from Daisy, the tough-yet-humble mountain girl.