This post has been heavy on my heart for about a week now and I finally had the time to sit down and write it out.
I grew up with a family who had a good income. We weren't rich by any means, but my brother and I always had what we needed in our house. When my parents divorced, and I went to live with my mom I saw what struggling to make ends meat looked like. I saw her work countless hours cleaning homes just so we could have decent clothing, food, and a roof over our heads. I also remember having Ramen noodles many a nights.
But I don't come from extreme poverty. I've seen it though. I've done mission trips in the slums of Los Angeles and in the slums of Puerto Rico. I've seen what poverty looks like. I've heard the stories of kids from poverty, I've read the studies and stories, I've watched the news.
You see what happens is that people who don't come from extreme poverty don't have that personal association with it so it's very difficult for them to grasp the depth and depravity that these kids are living in. It's one thing to see it, it's another to feel it.
At my campus, and in my own life, we're always looking for ways to reach every child and we constantly talk about many of the home lives these kids come from. And it hits us hard in our hearts.
But last week, it hit me even harder.
About 6 years ago I had a student in my 4th grade class. Formed a great relationship with this student, as well as his family. I had him again when I moved up to 5th grade the next year. Over the course of those two years and the two years following I kept in constant contact with the family. I helped pay for meals, I bought the kids school supplies, I tutored the boy and his brothers twice a week, took the boys to camp every summer, and the father as well as the boys were in my wedding. I bonded very closely with all of them. They came from poverty. Both parents struggled with their health, the electricity to the home was turned off quite often, and some days they didn't have running water.
It broke my heart, but I tried to help how I could.
Then due to some extreme circumstances that happened within their family, I lost contact with them. Until about two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago I ran back into the little boy (now a young man) randomly at a Navasota Football game of all places! It was great catching up, and I ended up giving him a ride home. When I dropped him off at his home, I was broken again.
The conditions that that family now are living in are even worse then before. And I wanted to do something right then. I wanted to find a way to help fix this problem in this community. And that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks, Sometimes we need that little moment of it hitting us personally to remember the pain and struggle so many families are going through.
But more so I talked with the young man about his struggles and it was incredible to hear his strength and tenacity. It was even more moving to hear him talk about the impact that I have left on him and how those "little" moments when I helped are what he most remembers. And how he said many nights knowing someone cared about him and his family helped him get through things. It also reminds me of the power of connecting and of the power of caring.
Sometimes the best we can do is provide a warm meal or a sometimes even just a hug. We work as a campus to provide turkeys at Thanksgiving, backpacks full of food every weekend, and even Christmas gifts before the holidays.
There are so many families in need, and not just during the holiday season. But so often they are easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of our so busy lives.
Take a moment, drive through the projects, visit your poorest student's home. See what they're living in and what they go through. We need to have that personal connection or at least a glimpse of understanding of poverty so that we can work together and work harder to fix this glaring problem.
We expect kids to come to school to learn, but I don't know about you, but it would be very difficult for me to learn on an empty stomach, while I slept the night before in a home with no electricity, and I couldn't take a shower, and my clothes hadn't been washed in a week. All while I hear mom and dad talk about how they can't afford things.
Together we can work to help find a solution. Together we must work, for the lives of so many depend on it. Be the glimmer of hope for these children.
"Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, when indeed, it's the only one that ever has" - Margaret Mead