Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It started with a coat.

  images29AR9OPZ
  Most of you know I teach.  Some of you know that I switched schools last year.  People who know the school I taught at and the school I moved to look at me as if I am the craziest person in town. I will be honest; I was at a school where I had very few problems with students.  They were from upper middle class families, and those families motivated them to do well.  The expectations of parents were high, and students normally met those expectations with very little prodding from me.  Most of them could read and comprehend, and they were fully capable of doing grade-level work.  Why on earth would I leave?  Especially to switch to a school where students had difficulty just keeping their eyes open during the day.  A school where students don’t usually have school supplies, and where a good number of them are operating well below grade-level.  Why on earth would I go there?

Here’s a fact:  at my old school, folks were generous.  The principal made a point of telling everyone who would listen that we were the school to beat in a penny campaign, or Hoops for Heart, or collecting canned goods.  Parents gave copious amounts to the PTA, and fundraisers were legion.  One dad donated half the cost of a new gym floor!  Yep, if you wanted to raise money, ours was the school to ask. My new school?  Not so much.  Our kids don’t have any money—most are on free or reduced lunch.  Our kids and their families are the ones who benefit from the fundraisers my old school used to have.  Don’t get me wrong—I gave my pennies and I brought in canned goods and I joined the PTA at my old school.  But I never really saw that it made any difference to anyone, other than it gave my principal bragging rights.  But when you SEE what a difference you make?  That’s what it’s all about.


 It all started when one of our media coordinators posted this on Facebook:

Today's 5 things. I hate to roll all 5 things into one moment very often, but nothing else about my day really compares. First thing this morning, a child walked into my office wearing a blanket as his coat. When I asked him if he needed a coat, he said very politely said, "Yes, ma'am." I sent him off to his next class and told him to come back at the next class break. With a little help from Curtis A. and Kristi J., we were able to send him home with a coat and gloves. The look in his eyes really warmed my heart. While I feel in my heart he is thankful and happy to have a coat to wear tomorrow morning in the 12 degree temps, I think the opportunity to help him was even more of a blessing. Stuff is stuff. People matter so much more than stuff. It's hard to comprehend how many things I take for granted every day. I wonder how many opportunities I miss to help someone in need with something that's simple to share. Tomorrow, he's getting a new scarf.

Then, this...

  Yesterday's Today's 5 things -- follow up .... The blanket/coat story unfolded in a new way today --- the student came to see me this morning … During that conversation I discovered he had insisted his mom have the coat we gave him yesterday. "She loved it and it fit her so I wanted her to have it. I was ok; I just added some more layers. Really ... I was ok." When I asked him if he'd really like to have a coat too if I could get another one --- no hesitation, "yes, please." After a little bit checking it turns out no one in the house has a coat and the mom was grateful that people wanted to help them. Thanks to several generous and kind hearted FB and school friends, both of his siblings and his mom are getting new, warm clothing. I wish you could see the joy in his eyes as he realized people were wanting to help him and his family. What a blessing it is to have an opportunity to share and care for others. Many thanks to you all for your compassion and concern.

And finally...

 Bear with me on this post, please. I know it's long, but the things I want to say will take a few words to express. First, several of you have asked about helping the family in need. I am taking the mother the clothing, coats, blankets, personal/household items, gloves/hats, and some food we've collected to the family tomorrow. I've spoken to the mother again today and explained that I'll have another set of items for her in a week or so. I wanted them to have as many of their urgent needs met as soon as possible. I'm attaching a link to a spreadsheet (Google doc) I created to coordinate needs. If the link works correctly you should be able to see the list of remaining items. Feel free to send me a message, if you'd like to help with any of these items. I'll edit the list as I get responses. The mother made it very clear to me that she believes this situation has been a miracle for her family. She's trying to help her oldest son pay for community college, pay rent/utilities, clothe and feed her children - with reduced hours and her son's part time job as income. She said she's heard about God providing a way her whole life as she's gone to church and never imagined it would be her that needed or received this kind of help. It's very nice to have an opportunity to help someone who needs help and has been "making do" because they feel they have more than others and don't want to burden others with their needs. Many thanks to my kind friends and family members for your overwhelming response to this situation. I personally have been blessed to have the opportunity extend love and support on behalf of many of you. The incredible support I've witnessed in this situation has come from people of all ages and different racial groups, from 3 different states, from people with various religious convictions and social beliefs, from every political party (including no political party whatsoever), a wide range of income groups, and any other way you could find to sort people if you were so inclined. In my opinion, one important element ties the entire group together. Life is short and no matter how much or how little a person has, people are more important that stuff. People helping people is a powerful and beneficial force. Government agencies, churches and charitable groups and such have a role in helping those in need, but there's no substitute for opening one's own eyes and meeting a need, great or small, in whatever way a person can. At the end of the day, how we treat each other matters. And how we treat each other in front of our children has the potential to impact the world for many years to come. I am humbled that the story of a boy who wore a blanket as his coat has spoken to so many of you. I pray the feelings I had that morning, as I realized the needs in the life of a child who wasn't complaining or asking for help, will forever shape decisions I make and lessons I try to teach my own child.

 This is why I moved.  This is where I’m supposed to be…helping kids who are great kids, but whose parents can’t give them what they need…this is where I can step in.  I loved being a mom, and I tried to be the best mom I knew how, but children grow and they create lives of their own, and then moms have to find something new to do.  And if that means I can help other moms be better moms by providing them with some of the basic necessities so that their children can be fed and warm…well, I’m honored.
In my next post, I’ll show you what I did for this little family.

IMG_0118














23 comments:

  1. how touching. You just never know do you. You went here for a reason, you thought it was to teach, but it was something bigger then that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good for you! You are a good soul and doing just what you are supposed to be doing-right where you are supposed to be!xo Diana

    ReplyDelete
  3. oh i have tears in my eyes- the world needs more people like you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are wonderful Kirby. What a beautiful story and what a beautiful move you made... and what a difference you make in the lives of the kids you teach and the people who read your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lovely story.

    I taught 24 years at a school just like yours. We organized many drives to bring in coats (which aren't so crucial in southern California), provide meals and even motel vouchers. for our homeless families. The kids in your other school will be successful because they have the tools and the connections. They don't need you as much as the students you teach today.

    Bravo to you for choosing a more challenging assignment and for organizing things for the family.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Kirby!!!!

    I know you made the right decision in changing schools. The way this student was so polite when he answered the teacher's question, was so refreshing to hear!! In his situation in life he could have been rude or angry, but, he was very polite.

    This school is going to be a better place for having you in it. With all the people helping this family, this family now can go to school warm with something in their stomachs, thanks to all of you!!! It always feels better giving and helping and making a difference.

    The classes you teach, are better for having you!!! Sometimes in a school there are teachers who love to teach and others that are there who like the pay and teaching is not their forte.I still remember teachers that were great and how much I enjoyed their classes!!!

    You're a DIAMOND Kirby!!!!!

    Pam
    xox

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh Kirby what a beautiful post and the child giving his new coat to his mother made me cry god bless them I think your new school will reward you in ways you couldn't be at your last school

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a new, different and wonderful definition of success you have found yourself achieving!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Always amazing how we end up blessed when we help others in need. Lovely post, Kirbs -- xo Heidi

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a wonderful story - brought tears to my eyes ......

    ReplyDelete
  11. Kirby, I already knew you were awesome in so many ways, but this post is my very favorite by far! As a former foster parent, I know just how desperate families can be and how so very often they are silent about their needs. Most often, families in need are way too proud to ever let someone know they need help. Sometimes it's up to us to just open our eyes and see for ourselves. Good for you and good for good people everywhere! I hope you motivate even more people to take action in some form.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Heartwarming, Kirby. Keep doing what you're doing! I'm hoping that many more will follow your lead and act when they see a wrong in the world. This family will never forget your kindness.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I feel honored to know you as a friend (only if you are my friend in my computer screen). I am with Cassie, the world needs more people like you. I am so impressed you chose to give up your comfy teaching position at your school and make a career move to make a difference. This is the kind of thing most people do before they get married and start a family, but I think often they are ill equipped for the emotional stress that comes with a position in a school like this. How amazing you took all your experience, and wisdom of raising children, life's challenges, etc., and used it to better the lives of students and families who otherwise have so few options to get ahead in this world. Thank you so much for sharing. Sharing on my FB page.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why oh why did I wear mascara today? My futile attempt to looked pulled together foiled by your amazing dedication to the kids and this amazing story of help and goodness ...

    :) Linda

    ReplyDelete
  15. I guess you already knew that you have to be in it for more than the money when you choose teaching. Who knew you would get richer by taking this new job? This story is lovely. I'm so glad that the teachers that you work with haven't been hardened by their jobs, but seem open to helping students meet all of their needs, not just getting test scores. This media coordinator seems lovely and is quite good at written expression! I'm anxious to hear more about what you will be doing with moms. And BTW - love the collection of groceries. It looks way healthier than what they would receive from a food closet.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh Kirby I have tears running down my face! Thank you. It's a good cry.

    ReplyDelete
  17. oh kirby....I'm crying. thank you for this...for all you do...for the blessing you are to the world. you ARE in the right place, and I am grateful

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is wonderful! You are an amazing teacher (I speak from first hand experience). I am glad you have the chance to help and share your wisdom with a new group of children.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a beautiful post and a beautiful thing. "People are more important than stuff." Amen!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow Kirby...I'm playing catch-up on my blog reading and what a great story. I've got tears. I'm off to read the next part. :)

    -andi

    ReplyDelete
  21. What a wonderful feeling to help a family, and one who is so appreciative of the help. I think you are such a good person for changing schools to go where you can make a difference, you will enjoy the results so much more!
    Debbie :)

    ReplyDelete

Your comment makes me feel twenty years younger and thirty pounds lighter!