‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Haves and Have-nots

My job brings me into different schools and treatment facilities, public and private, every few weeks. I love it. I love meeting new students, I love getting children of all ages excited about language. Basically, I adore my job. For the past few months I had been primarily working at a simply amazing private school. It is run on the Montessori method. However, I have worked in many Montessori schools, and this one is by far the most wonderful: exceptional teachers, devoted staff, caring parents, and delightful, engaging students. It is housed in a gorgeous building, filled with light and very peaceful spaces. There is a forest around it, and wonderful, natural outdoor playing spaces. I feel at home there and look forward to being back there in the spring. For the most part, the families that send their children there are blessed financially. But they are also one of the most generous communities I have ever worked in. I work in countless schools. Some I like --some, not so much. However, this winter I have been very fortunate. I'm going from one school I adore, to another.

In many ways, the school I just began working in today is the polar opposite of the above mentioned school. It is public. It is in the inner city. Instead of a forest, it is surrounded by tenement buildings and lots of litter. Instead of a natural playing space, there is a large, cracked asphalt square, fenced in by a broken, rusted chain-link fence. Yes, there are exceptional teachers here too, but many are exhausted and burned out. Their class sizes are more than double that of the above mentioned school. There is a very devoted staff, but no money to implement any programs. There are caring parents, but most of them are single moms who work 2-3 jobs just to pay the rent. And there are the children: delightful and engaging, just like the private school children, but they are colder and hungrier. They come to school without winter jackets and are grateful to eat the free breakfast provided by the school. They all walk home, most all alone, even at six and seven years old. Many go home to an empty apartment, where they will stay alone, until their mom comes home at 6pm. I love this school just as much, if not more.

It's just really interesting to go from one to the other. I wish so much that the kids in this particular public school could have the same advantages the children in the other school have. I always wonder what their futures would be like if they had the same chances. Today, when I arrived, one of the teachers I know well asked if I had any second-hand coats that my daughter wasn't wearing anymore. She had several children in her class with no winter coats. She had already bought a few at the salvation army, but there is a never-ending need at this school. It breaks my heart.

Today, my new students were just as excited to learn as the students in my last school. The only difference is that more than half of them came up to me afterwards to thank me for teaching them. " Yo, you're a good teacher, yo!" I heard from Javier in a very much 'outdoor' voice, " Thanks for comin' here!" And then a shy Vietnamese girl shakes my sleeve, " I want say thank you. I like."

Lots of thank yous. And it's not that the private school children are not thankful. I know they are, but they are used to getting their needs met (as it should be!) It is not a rare thing for them. With these other kids, getting attention, praise and positive feedback is not something they often get. Their moms are busy making ends meet. Their teachers are bogged down by over-enrollment. So, they are grateful for every little bit they get. And they let me know.

Today I just want to express my gratitude to God for giving me these two experiences back to back. The disparity is jarring, but I'm glad I have eyes to see it and can try to lessen it. Tomorrow I will go back to the school with secondhand coats, and books, and hats and gloves. It will level the playing field a bit. It won't solve the problem of poverty that never goes away, but it will make a tiny dent in a few lives.

Please be on the lookout in your own communities for those who currently 'have-not'. They are, but for the grace of God, you and me. They love their children and want good things for them, but they are often working many jobs at minimum wage. It doesn't leave much room for even essentials. They dream of better lives, like we do, but they don't often have the means to make them come true. They are our brothers and sisters. We need to keep our eyes open to their needs. We are God's hands and feet. How lucky we are when we get the chance to share our wealth with others. (And, yes, 'wealth' is a relative term.) The fact that we have anything to give is a testament to our being blessed. We are blessed!


  1. I work in a facility where youth are brought in for truancy, runaways, minor offenses, ungovernable, etc. So, we get kids from all over the County. And it's fascinating to see the differences in the kids, just by what kind of school they attend.

  2. Anonymous2:22 PM

    Thank you for this post. Your message spoke to me at the most perfect time. Bless you for the fantastic work that you do for all the children, and for your very kind heart.

  3. FaerieMama, just got back from seeing Sarge Goodchild at ActiveHealing in Magnolia,Mass. He did an evaluation on Alex (who has ptsd,gad,sid,rad and dyslexia) and created a program of exercises for him. I thought about you and Anastasia. It's $2200 for a year's worth of treatment but it sounds like ya'll (yes,I'm from Texas) have something called flexible spending accounts? Texas is such a dinosaur that we don't have anything like that.

    We even drove to Portsmouth,NH for the parade and to go to Strawberry Banke...took a wrong turn and saw "Welcome to Maine!" Here, it takes about 12 hours to get out of the state from where we are...amazing to be in three states within about an hour! Email me if you want more info about Sarge.....he's awesome and so is Dr.Courtney, the chiropractor who teams with him. Alex said after his adjustment that he'd never felt that good in his life! jerigrothues@yahoo.com

  4. I have to thank you for this post. In September our family went from a "have" family to a "have not" family due to my husband being transitioned out of the military due to medical reasons. A major move from a tropical climate to the midwest accompanied it. And now that my husband cannot find a job, I am working on my feet 8 hours a day. He has gotten into a program that will pay for school for 2 years. In the end he will have a very profitable career, but for the next 2 years we will struggle. My kids went from wearing smart school uniforms to hand-me-down winter coats. They get free school lunches. We have no health insurance. It has been so very humbling. I would constantly wonder, "why?" But I am too busy and my feet hurt too much. (I broke my right foot 6 weeks ago.) We used to donate toys to toy drives, and this year I considered getting us on the list, but with clever budgeting we avoided that. This is my family and I want to provide for them. I pray that this will teach them something about fortitude and thriftiness. I hope they are not lost in the hopelessness of missing friends and feeling the cold of winter with memories of weekly beach outings with a mom who was blessed to be able to stay at home with them.
    Thank-you for your post.


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