Tag Archives: poverty

When I Was A Child Living in Poverty

It was a Poverty Simulation our school district hosted. It was only for a morning. I was invited to attend as a community member along with school counselors and personnel from the district and some parents. I knew at the outset it would be stressful and that I would leave with an awareness I already had, that poverty was horrible. I even questioned why in the world I would attend such a thing when I could be going to yoga class instead.

I was shocked when the simulation began and I was assigned the role of a 9-year-old girl named Whitney. I assumed I would be a grown up, not a child. I lived with my younger brother who had some special needs and my 50 something year old grandparents who were raising us because our mom was incarcerated for drug use and our dad had disappeared. Grandma had a low paying job and Grandpa was disabled due to diabetes.

We spent the morning living out a month in the life of this family. My grandparents were totally obsessed with surviving; going to work; trying to access community services; getting food; paying bills. Periodically, life would happen and our family would be thrown a curve that sent us into even deeper crisis.

As a nine-year old big sister, I felt incredibly responsible for my little brother. At school, I was distracted worrying about my grandparents. I kept checking to see if Grandma was at work because if she wasn’t, we wouldn’t have food. My grandparents tried but they were so focused on surviving they could barely acknowledge my brother and myself.

At the end, my grandpa went to the doctor and learned his medication would cost $350 and there was absolutely no way we could afford it. The whole family settled into the devastating news that grandpa would probably die.

After the simulation, our family debriefed. We all felt stressed, out of control and couldn’t believe that our best efforts and planning did not help improved our family’s situation one bit. In fact, things got worse.

As eye-opening as it was about the terrible reality of poverty, I left with hope because of some of bright spots in place in our community. We have not solved poverty, a staggering 1 our of 4 students in our district live in poverty. But, we have created some light her; some let’s-just-do-something strategies which matter.

When I was a child living in poverty sitting at school worrying about my grandparents, if a mentor had shown up to visit with me, even once a week, it would have changed me. No one at home could afford to pay much attention to me. Here, we have a school based mentoring program overseen by Big Brothers Big Sisters to serve students just like me. http://www.gcisd-k-12.org (search Mentor) for an application. We have plenty of students in need, we just need more mentors.

When I was a child living in poverty, if I had been given a bag of food to eat over the weekend, it would have truly relieved pressure on my whole family. It would have reminded me that someone cared. We have that program here, which currently serves almost 1000 students in our district through the school year. http://www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org (search Weekend Food).

When I was a child living in poverty, if my family had a community agency that would visit with us and provide resources for clothing, food, medical care, holiday needs, a summer lunch time food option, it would have made all the difference. We have that here. http://www.gracegrapevine.org

When I was a child living in poverty if someone offered my family a hot meal, at a large table where we didn’t have to worry about the cost or the clean up, where we were treated like guests, we would have felt like we were less alone.  We have that here. http://www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org (search Be Our Guest Meal).

When I was a child living in poverty, if there was a huge Back to School Fair where I could get school supplies, a backpack, countless community and school resources, all in a one-stop setting, we would have felt equipped and loved. We have that here. (search Facebook for Connect GCISD).

When I was a child living in poverty, if there had been an after school program for my brother and me, my grandparents would have had more time to oversee our home. Someone would be there to give us a snack, a hot meal, help with our homework and a place to belong. We have that here thanks to a partnership with our local police, school district and churches. http://www.grapevinetexas.gov (search Grapevine Community Outreach Center Vast).

Living in poverty was horrible. And I know, I really have no idea how horrible. But, at least there are bright spots here. At least there are places you can give, serve and work and know that you a bringing light to a child.  At least there is that.

Just Do Something

We’ve all been saying it. We’ve been shaking our heads at the events of recent weeks and months. We seem to agree that we hate the violence. We hate the division among races, religions and cultures. We hate what is happening in politics right now. We hate floundering over which phrase is wrong or right to say. We hate that people are dying. We hate that there are no easy solutions and on and on.

I like it when people just start acting, don’t you? I like it when someone takes a food basket to the police station. I like it when someone puts flowers at a site where something bad happened. I like it when someone writes a note or says a prayer or marches peacefully for what they believe in. I like it when someone sends a card to a grieving family. I like it when someone offers a word of support to those in leadership during these trying times.

Do we really live in a society where young people can get guns easier than computers or books? I pray not. I want to be able to act in defiance of all that has happened lately. I want to do something positive. I know we can’t solve it all. So what, then?

In our community, thankfully, we have worked together for years to help economically disadvantaged children, especially around the issue of education. We seem to share an understanding that if these students in need are fed, clothed, healthy and equipped with school supplies and resources; we are all better off.

For the last four years, our school district, faith-based organizations, civic organizations and lots and lots of concerned citizens have worked together, in spite our differences of theology, politics, race and culture to provide backpacks, school supplies, resources and love to our struggling families at an annual Back to School Fair.

This is something positive we can do. We need new backpacks for the Connect/GCISD August 6 Back to School Fair which will be held at Grapevine High School from 9 a.m.-noon.  We love having a variety of backpacks and letting each child carefully choose the one he or she wants. Almost 1400 students are pre-registered to attend this year, the most we’ve ever had.

It seems like a small thing, buying a backpack. Could it make a difference?  I know it does. I’ve seen the children picking them out; wearing them proudly.  I’ve seen them when they receive those school supply packs supplied generously by the Women’s Division of the Grapevine Chamber. I see the relief on the faces of the moms and dads. It matters.

New backpacks can be delivered up until August 5 to the GCISD Administration Building main office at 3051 Ira E. Woods, Grapevine, TX, 76051.  Or, you can volunteer. Come to the fair and help us take positive, community-based steps for good. Sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaeac23a5f49-5thannual or go to www.connectgcisd.org for more information.

Just do something.

Already Wrapped in Layers of Love

We are getting ever so close to our first grandbaby’s due date. I bought Half and Half that expires after his July 1 due date, so it’s close! We all: friends, extended family and of course, his parents and grandparents are just abuzz with anticipation.  When we will he come?  How will it unfold?  What will he look like?  What will he need?  Will we be able to   provide for him?  Will he like to be rocked? We have rocking chairs poised and ready. I wonder if he will like being swaddled? We have many blanket options on hand.

The baby showers are happening. Relatives and friends are layering in the love and good wishes already. I even had a surprise Mimosa shower (that’s my grandmother name–it’s a long story and yes, I love it.)  My coworkers gave me children’s books for Mimosa’s house.  The titles of those books, “Love You Forever,” “You’re Here for a Reason,” “I Love You Night and Day,” “How Do I Love You?” and “Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You” speak of the messages that will be layered in and lavished on him immediately upon birth.

On Saturday, my daughter and I had fun opening all the packages of crib sheets and little hooded towels. We took the tags off of countless cute outfits and tiny socks. We created three piles of laundry to wash and fold and put away in his nursery. You know it is real when there is laundry involved. You also know he is already a Texas Aggie because he had one whole pile of maroon clothes.

I found myself thinking of other pregnancies and babies being born around the world. I know not everyone is wrapped in layers of love before they arrive here. Not everyone has good prenatal care and their own room and scores of relatives and friends awaiting them with open arms. Some babies won’t have enough to eat or even medical care from the very beginning much less multiple rocking and swaddling options on hand.

As we prepare, I pray for our grandson but also for all the others. I pray for layers and layers of love and anticipation for all children. Isn’t that really how it should be?

Seriously?

I’m not even a hard-core Dallas Cowboy’s fan.  I love watching them. I always have. I’m just not an over-the-top, paint my face blue, wear a Staubach jersey kind of fan. But even I had a major problem with what happened yesterday.  We Cowboy’s fans were robbed of a first down, maybe even a touchdown, on a very questionable call. Dez caught the ball.  In my opinion, it should have been ruled a catch due to his pure athletic ability alone.  Seriously.

And just like that, the game was over; the play-off hopes were down the drain; and the season suddenly ended–all under such questionable circumstances. “Not fair!” I said, along with several thousand other people.  I complained.  I lamented.  I asked if anything could be done to change it.  I felt bitter and angry.

The feeling of injustice took me to Twitter where I could commiserate with others.  It was there I noticed other things were going on in our world beyond football.  People were marching in France and in other places in an act of solidarity against acts of terror.  Acts of terror, now there’s injustice.

It reminded me of the injustice of racism and all the recent protests in response to recent events. That reminded me of how unfair and awful it was when those innocent police officers were gunned down in retaliation. All unfair and wrong.  Diseases are unfair.  Just ask anyone who has had one or lost a loved one to one.  Drunk drivers rob innocent people of their lives on a daily basis.  Talk about unfair.  Despair resulting in suicide and the toll that takes on family, friends and communities.  Unfair. That some are unlucky enough to be born into poverty and don’t have the opportunity to do life well-fed, adequately housed or properly educated. Unfair. This list could go on and on.  I won’t even discuss the unspeakable injustice of men being able to lose weight faster than women.

I’m not going to lie, it took me several hours to adjust my attitude and strong sense of sport’s fan indignation yesterday. But perspective helped.  Life is not fair on so many levels.  Forgive me, God, when I can’t see what really matters. Seriously.    .

I Want Us to See Them

In our local school district (Grapevine-Colleyville, Texas) there are over 3000 students identified as economically disadvantaged.  That number grows every year, currently it is right at 1 in 4.  These are the children on free and reduced lunch.  This the little girl who showed up to see the school nurse on Monday morning with a tummy ache.  When the nurse questioned the child she discovers the last time the little girl ate, last Friday, at school.  This the little boy seen limping every day.  He wasn’t injured, his shoes were just several sizes too small.

I know we can debate poverty forever.  I know many of us disagree on how to address it.  Maybe the people should work harder.  Maybe we are enabling them to stay like that by giving out food and clothes. Maybe there are immigration issues that no one can agree on.  I finally decided, that I, personally am not interested in debating poverty anymore.  I’m done with it.  I just want these children to be seen.

So a few of us decided to tackle something really big  It is so big there is no way it can be done alone.  We decided to invite our community to look into the eyes of the children in need in our school and do something to transform their situation.

I want us to see them; get to know them; listen to their stories and hear their needs. We all know if children are fed, clothed properly and have the right school supplies, eye glasses, dental and medical care, they will be better learners and community members.  We know if a child has just one mentor, they are less likely to be at risk for all kinds of things.  When they are better served, we all move forward.

So less than two years ago, Connect was born.  www.connectgcisd.org. Connect is about doing not debating.  Connect is about tackling something bigger than any one of us.  Connect requires all of us, churches, synagogues, civic clubs, teachers and school administrators, the city personnel, businesses and countless other organizations to pool our resources so that we can see these children.

When I first heard the story of the little girl with the tummy ache who hadn’t eaten all weekend, my eyes filled with tears.  Then I got mad.  Then I just said, “Not in our backyard, not in our schools, not on our watch.” 

You and I are what we see.  Our life is somewhat defined by what we look at.  Right here in our community, in our schools, just around the corner from our neighborhood there are children in need.  I want us to seem them, really see them.