Last week a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she has a student who has been coming to school in shorts and a polo shirt with no jacket. Now, we ARE in Arizona, and shorts are pretty standard year round. This student, though, has been coming to school and hour and a half before class starts and has been seen shivering and jumping around to keep warm. My heart broke when my friend started the post like this; as a teacher myself I knew exactly where this story was going. Sure enough, the post ended with a plea for help for this little girl and her sisters. Did anyone have any uniform pants that this teacher could share with the children? And maybe a jacket?
It was amazing to see a group of people come together so quickly and offer what they could. The pants and jackets were taken care of, and my friend was heading to Target that night to get hats and gloves for the girls. What was still not addressed was the fact that the children hadn't been eating dinner because there was no food in the house. They got free breakfast at school, but anyone who has seen that program knows that it is not heavy on the protein and nutrients students need to be as successful as they could be. Lunch was also provided, but that meant that these little girls ate nothing from around 11 AM until 8:30 the next day. I could not imagine how they could possibly focus on homework at the end of a day like that.
Daniel and I went to the grocery store and bought $20 worth of food for the family. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it's what we could do that day, and I wanted to be sure the student could carry the packages in her backpack. We picked up peanut butter and jelly, crackers, spagetti and sauce, and mac and cheese. This are all things that could be prepared by the children if necessary and will fill them up. It is a lot of carbs, but I wasn't so much interested in the quality of the food as getting something in their bellies at night. Let's face it, the first order of business is not going to bed hungry. And, because I believe all children should be able to enjoy time at home I picked up some hot chocolate mix and marshmallows.
The mom was so appreciative of all that was done to help her family. I was told "thank you 12 times over," which is not what I was doing this for. I was doing this because to me, THIS is what Christmas is all about. Helping someone who on every other normal day gets by silently and does the best she can. On a special holiday, though, she deserves a little bit more. Our gift didn't come on the actual day, but maybe now one scared mom can feel comfortable buying a small gift for each of her children, knowing that she can pull a couple of dollars out of her food budget. To me, this is more than the gifts I buy because I feel I have to. My own girls have everything they need and more.
As bills pile up this month, and life gets stressful, let this be a reminder that it isn't about how many gifts are under the tree or how much money was spent. It isn't about what the children THINK they can't live without because all the other kids have one. It's about what families truly CAN'T live without. This season is about the love and the support that we offer each other. It's about coming together to be one group in this world that has become so isolating. Christmas isn't about gifts at all. It's about a need to remember our humanity and our humility. Every one of us can afford to share a smile, a hug, or simply saying, "You are important to me." Every one of us should HEAR that this Christmas. If someone around you has not, please be sure to be the one to give them the greatest gift of all this holiday season.
To my readers: Please know that you ARE important to me. I appreciate every one of your comments, and I enjoy knowing that I am special enough for you to take some of your time to read my words. Have a very Merry Christmas.