The spirit in which it was given

Tuesday’s sub gig had me at a newer school, working in a nice computer lab with a bunch of ninth graders. Once done with their assignments, they are allowed to go onto a limited number of websites deemed appropriate for their school setting.

One of those websites is, a site that allows you to answer questions from a wide array of categories, such as English grammar and vocabulary, math, art, geography and foreign languages, to name a few; for each question you answer correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program. It’ s all legit, run through Harvard University’s Center for Internet and Society. Very cool stuff. Check it out at

Anyway, there was a girl in this class who finished her work, and went onto She was there for quite a while, and seemed really into it. (As you answer questions correctly, and earn rice, rice is added to a bowl in the right hand corner of the screen, showing what you have earned. Again, very cool). The site also has some appeal to the folks here because rice is a huge staple of the local diet, so it has a more tangible feel than it might to a kid back in my home state of Minnesota, for example, where Minute Rice qualifies as an exotic side dish.

After about ten minutes of rice-earning, she proudly proclaimed that she had worked hard, and had earned 500 grains of rice. I walked over to where she was sitting. “Mr. Lucker – that’s pretty good, isn’t it? 500 grains of rice is good”.

“Yeah, that’s pretty good. Nice job”.

“So how much rice that is? How many people you think I’m feeding”?

“Well, 500 grains of rice would probably be a decent size bowl of rice”.

“WHHHHHHHHATTTT?????!! That’s only ONE BOWL OF RICE”???!!! This draws the attention of a male classmate sitting next to her at his computer, who looks at the girl quizzically.

“Well, yeah, I would guess that’s about what you’d get…”

“WHAT” ?!!! she screams (yeah, SCREAMS), “That’s all”??!! Both the young man who is sitting next to her and I start to say exactly the same thing, holding up our hands with fingers spread slightly apart, “We’ll a grain of rice is only about this big…”

“WHAT”???!!! You mean that I did all of that f****** work, answered all them stupid f***** questions, just for one f***** bowl of mother-f***** rice???? Well f*** that”!!!!

The girl grosses her arms in petulant disgust, looking defiantly at her computer. The boy next to her just shakes his head, reiterating “A grain of rice is only about this big” as he turns back to the work on his computer.

“All that work for one bowl of rice”! The girl is still fuming, though she has calmed down a bit, she closes with a final shot; “That is one mother-f****** rip off”!

I could only shake my head and walk away, secure at least in the knowledge that somewhere, somebody would be eating a bowl of rice, courtesy of a fifteen year old girl in New Orleans.


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