Monday, November 24, 2014

Give Thanks, Give Back

This past week I got to do something that I've always wanted to do as a teacher but never did, for whatever reason.

I work in a district where over 85% of our students are on a free and reduced lunch.  I work with kids who come from all types of backgrounds with all types of stories.

Since we are in November, the month of giving thanks, I was thinking about all I had to be thankful for.  One of the things that kept hitting me was how much I take for granted the food that I'm able to put on my dining room table daily.

So I challenged my students.  On Monday morning I talked on the announcements that I wanted to do a little competition.  I encouraged my students to write me a letter or story about what they were thankful for.  Then I told them I would pick the best 3, and those 3 students would go home for Thanksgiving with a frozen turkey.

I wasn't sure how many students would take me up on the offer.

So, I went with my wife to the store and we bought the 3 biggest turkeys I could find.  Man they were heavy!  All I could picture was a little kid carrying this thing on a bus!

The stories had to be turned into me by 3:30pm on Thursday.  When I checked my box, I had over 250 letters turned in (that's out of about 340 students total).  I was in shock.  I couldn't believe that many kids had written letters!  I was hoping for 50!

That night I spent about an hour and a half reading through letters.  And tears just fell from my eyes with a few of them.  Students who were thankful for being a part of a school where they felt like they belonged, or students who were thankful to have a teacher care about them for the first time, or students who were thankful for cows! Yes cows! haha.  There were students who were thankful for their once a month visits with their dad, students who were thankful they were allowed to visit mom in prison once a week.  I mean just the kinds of things that absolutely break your heart.

But it was a reminder of why I am where I am.  These kids need us.  They need our understanding, our patience, our kindness, and our unconditional love.

So that night as I read I couldn't decide between three, I was instead stuck on 4.  I headed into work Friday not knowing what I was gonna do because I only had 3 frozen turkeys. Then that morning, a teacher stopped me and said, "I don't know who you chose, but if you didn't choose _____, I want you to know I bought him a turkey because I was so touched and moved by what he wrote, and he hates writing but worked so hard for that turkey".  My eyes welled up with tears.  Why?  Because that little boy WAS my 4th pick, and on the way to work I had prayed and prayed for a solution.  Then his teacher, shows up with our 4th frozen turkey, so all four of my picks could go home for Thanksgiving with a turkey.

You should have seen the joy in their eyes when I announced their names on Friday.  I had such a swell of pride in my heart for these kids.  I wish I could have sent every single child home with a turkey.

And the closing part of my day was when a staff member stopped me and said "I'm so glad ______ won the turkey.  Their grandma had just broken down to me on the phone that they weren't going to be able to afford a turkey this year for Thanksgiving"

So give.  Give freely, give often, give openly, just give.  For you never know the impact that even the smallest gift can make.