A while back, I posted about my frustration with out Board of Education and the fact they redistricted our schools. One of the schools that took the biggest hits was the school my children attend. Without the desire or request of our parents, the board demagnetized our school, switched to neighborhood schools, and ripped almost all the existing students out save for a small percentage. They did all of this, upended all of our students, for a few bucks. The rage felt by many in the community was palpable. Our town is very diverse, but individual neighborhoods are not. In order to keep our schools diverse and racially balanced, kids from all different neighborhoods attended all the various schools. The redistricting, however, put us out of racial balance, and effectively segregated kids by socio- economics. Now I know when I was a kid, we all attended neighborhood schools, but the town I lived in wasn’t diverse at all, racially, or socioeconomically, which always bothered me. I always loved how diverse our current town was, and that families in our school helped each other out.
One of the problems of socioeconomic segregation is that the poorer side of town schools are struggling to fundraise and keep up with the other schools. This wasn’t a problem until this year. While we’d probably be referred to as middle class, our home falls in the school district where a lot of lower income families live. This means that we have a lot of full time working, single working parents who are struggling to make ends meet, or families REALLY struggling just to get by. There aren’t the same amount of stay at home parents around to do all the PTA projects and fundraising as we had before. We also have kids who are going without basics because their parents are struggling to get by. The government shutdown likely didn’t help folks either.
I knew it was difficult. I just didn’t know HOW bad some of these kids have it.
I was planning to go through my closets because one of the grades was doing a clothing drive to raise funds. I happened to be on the phone with someone at the school and said “I’m going through my coat closet, does any child, by chance, need a coat? I’ll see what I have.” Her response left me FLOORED.
“We have a LIST of children here at the school that need coats”.
“Like, a couple of kids?”
“No, we have a LOT of kids who do not have coats. We are trying to find a solution. We need to find coats in all sizes, both genders”.
It’s dipping down below -20 here this week, and there are little kids without COATS. I hung up the phone and cried.
After a quick cry, determination set in. Y’all, this is the one time my lack of organization when it comes to my house was the BEST. You see, my coat closet was filled with coats, some were my son’s from about 6 years ago that I never got rid of. I pulled out about 10 coats from both kids. I then put the word out to family and friends. My dad donated some money for me to go buy some items. I used some of my own as well, and purchased up about 10-15 hats and then got gloves to match. I used the money from my dad to buy coats in sizes I didn’t have. I was able to get full school uniforms in multiple sizes. Things started to fall into place! I took my lunch break to race to a friend’s house and picked up a bag of coats. Friends drove by and left coats in bags by my front door. In the middle of the night I was contacted by a woman who works at an organization locally that collects items for children and lets families “shop” for free for what the need. She had coats, she promised, as well as some other items we need for our students, and would drop them to me. The generosity of people was overwhelming. With 24 hours of that call, I had amassed about 40 coats and multiple hats, gloves, and school uniforms. 48 hours later, we have about 100 coats for the families of this town to select from.
The person I spoke to broke down when I showed up with my items in tow. Before long we were both welling up, discussing the needs of our community and how to meet them. She, as well as myself, another mom, and others, are going to work on creating a room where our students can get items they need for free, so that they can focus more on learning. This has been the highlight of 2019 for me. Creating happiness for others and working towards a goal that will help the kids of the community is exciting and one I am looking forward to.
Now I know there are those that will see this and say I shouldn’t have posted about it. But here’s the thing….
I didn’t know.
I live in an average house, in an average neighborhood. Money is tight sometimes, and some months, a bill gets skipped so I can cover something else. That being said, we have our necessities met, and we can afford a vacation or trip sometimes with some planning and hard work. I know there are families in my area struggling, but honestly I didn’t realize how deep that struggle is so close to home. The idea that there are families so close to me that are struggling to provide a coat for their children is one that left me broken and wondering just how much I don’t know. Call me naive, but it just didn’t click for some reason. If there are kids in my town in this situation, there may be kids in your town too. Sometimes folks who are struggling to make it work hide their troubles very, very well. It doesn’t mean that their burden shouldn’t be lifted. I didn’t know the need was there, but now I do, and I want to help. Even better, I am meeting and working with other folks who want to help as well. Strangers are reaching out asking “How can I help? What is the need?” and it’s AMAZING.
Maybe there are others like me, who didn’t know out there. I asked for help to make life a little easier for some kids in need, and people stepped up.In 48 hours, I feel like we made a difference to a lot of kids, just by asking, offering, giving, collecting and being kind. I believe there are others out there who may read this and say “hey, I can do that too” and they CAN and WILL.
We live in a world where we are often told poor people are the enemy. It’s ironic, really, because the rich hold the power but blame the poor for the problems. If you listen to the narrative out there, there is a common thread of everyone judging those they feel are “beneath them” in some way. Whether they look down on poor people, people of different colors or backgrounds than themselves, different genders….it’s as if people judge their self worth by trying to find someone, anyone that they are above. The rich folks love to point the finger at the poor and blame them for problems. No matter where you fall in the grand scheme of things, there is someone out there finding something about you to put you beneath them. It’s really sad.
Yet what if we all tried to raise each other up, with a helping hand, some compassion? What it we looked around and sought out those who might need a little help? What if we looked at the children in our community or those communities around us and set out with the goal to lift those children up and help them succeed? When we raise children up, we lift up our future and make it better.
I have always tried to teach my kids about helping others. I explain that making someone else smile, or making their day better makes everyone happier. It’s a ripple effect. Within 48 hours, I had collected over 100 coats, along with gloves, hats, scarves and uniforms! I delivered the last of them this morning. Hopefully those coats ease the worry just a little of some of the staff and teachers at the school. Kids will be warmer as they walk to school and go about their days. They will hopefully feel a bit happier and have a chance to focus more on school and less on being cold. The families of those kids will have one less thing to worry about. The community at large becomes a better place, because those who donated, and even those that saw others donate, often become inspired to help someone in whatever way they are able to. The children of the families who donate learn that their friends and classmates may be going through things at home and may need some kindness. Kindness circles back.
So I did a thing, to teach kindness to my kids, and to help the kids in my community. I’m writing about it to see if I can inspire someone else to do a little something kind for someone in their community. Even if it’s kind words, some gloves for a homeless person, or even a coat to a school for a child who might need one. Do a thing, and join me in a little kindness.