What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.
Isaiah 58:7 (Message)
He rode his bike to school everyday. She noticed that he sometimes arrived early, before students were allowed into the building, before there was anyone to supervise. At least twice a week he forgot his lunch. The days grew shorter and shadows lengthened: air crackled with brittle cold and icy frost lined the edges of moisture on browned leaves and fallen pine needles.
He rode his bike to school everyday, his thin coat worn and smudged with use. Sometimes he fell asleep in class, lanky hair hiding eyes on a face that might have seen a washcloth that week. This wasn't a serve-breakfast school. She told him he was welcome to come into her classroom on those early mornings. So he wouldn't have to wait outside.
I always eat a morning snack, she said. Would you like a slice of apple? She asked. And she cut, and shared. And brought more, because he always ate whatever she had. Bananas, apples, oranges. Then granola bars, crackers and cheese, even yogurts with plastic spoons.
He was living in a motel - a weekly-rate motel across the railroad tracks. Across the highway. Barely within district. Everyday, doing homework at the table in the room he shared with his mother, and brother, and two sisters. Until they could find a better place.
He rode his bike to school everyday, backpack pinned together with two safety pins, homework hopelessly creased and wrinkled, barely readable through the scribbled crayon and coffee rings. It smelled of stale cigarettes. One time she saw a bug escape, antennae sniffing the classroom air when he slapped the backpack on the desk to pull his work out. Work and bugs from that temporary home. She kept her face still because his eyes were on her. He knew she knew.
He rode his bike to school everyday. Two weeks before Christmas, there had been a delivery made to his home. Christmas angels. He had a new backpack. He had a new coat, and mittens, and a hat to keep his head warm. He sported new shoes. Do you believe in Santa Claus? He asked, showing her, his teacher, during their breakfast snack before school. Yes, she said. Absolutely yes.
He helped her in the classroom on those early mornings. Unstacking chairs, rearranging desks, taking down bulletin boards and pulling out staples. They didn't talk much. Sometimes about his family. Sometimes about hers. She saw his hopeful smile, his little-boy smile, his big-brother smile. It bloomed on his face like a wild flower along the summer highway. Beautiful. Unexpected. Out of place, but oh-so-bright-and-it-filled-her-heart-with-joy, in the white of winter and the dark before school. He never showed that smile during class and she felt privileged that he shared it with her.
And then he wasn't there. His family had moved. Out of district. She discovered. Out of state. An opportunity at a real life.
Dear God, she prayed, thank you. Keep them safe. Keep them healthy. Hold them in your hand.
Poverty is real in this country. Free and reduced lunches and breakfasts help, but are not always enough to fill in the gaps for students in poverty. Thankfully, church-led, community-sponsored, and within-faculty programs have been put into place to help in situations where families just can't seem to find a way. Back-pack programs help with weekend food. There are used-coat drives, and school supply giveaways. There are many opportunities to be a Christmas angel to children and to families.
Having been in public-school education for the past 17 years, I have seen teachers buy out-of-pocket for their students in need. Without fanfare and without publicity. These students are often mobile, moving from school to school, district to district, and state to state - families in search of a better life, or running from the one they have. The teachers don't do it for thank-you. They don't do it for a pat on the back. They don't do it for recognition. They do it because they care. Because it's the right thing to do. Because it makes a difference.
Linking with: TellHisStory, Three Word Wednesday, Unforced Rhythms