From the vault - originally published in August 2015 as we prepared for Kindergarten but fitting as we navigate the start of school and I've experienced this same sentiment again with both of my girls.
To the lady at Target with the Venti Starbucks carrying a Coach bag bitching about the school supply list:
It takes a village.
This is our second trip for school supplies. The first trip wasn’t for us; it was to pack a pack for a kid who doesn’t have the money to buy a backpack or notebooks or pencils. We bought extra note cards and glue and scissors. We even bought snacks and put them in the pack. And we didn’t buy our daughter anything that day because we wanted her to truly begin to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as she is. She saw you scowling at the list and heard you question each. and. every. item. She saw your son throw a tantrum over the Avengers folder. And now she has questioned why we have to follow the list and why she can’t have Hello Kitty markers instead of Crayola.
I’m not knocking Starbucks. Or designer bookbags. Or new clothes. We have all that, too, and we don’t even have to wait until Tax Free to make our purchases. And I don’t begrudge you to have what you want – it’s your money, you’ve earned it. But there are people in our community that don’t have, well, much.
It’s hard, you know, to step outside ourselves and realize that not everyone has what we have. Caroline is almost five and almost all of her friends in her pre-school class invited her to their birthday party (and she had one, too) and brought treat bags for Halloween and books for the Christmas book exchange and candy for the Valentines. But not everyone is us.
Some people just can’t afford to send their kids to school with supplies (let alone new clothes, lunchboxes, backpacks or shoes).
I’m sorry that there are some odd requests on the list – but I can promise you that those requests were made because there is a need. Not because teachers have been furloughed or instructional money is now being spent in other ways but because there are kids sitting in your son’s class who have parents that have lost jobs and homes and just can’t afford anything extra. And school supplies are extra. That teacher may ask for cleaning supplies or two boxes of crayons because she’s spending her money buying snacks so that everyone has enough to eat. Or providing soap and deodorant. Or stocking up on books so that little kids isn’t left out at the Holiday Party. You are being asked to buy that kid a glue stick and a pair of scissors. Your son’s teacher is requesting that everyone share crayons because the girl in the desk next to him has a single mother that works two jobs to make ends meet and two brothers that needed school supplies, too, but they are using last year’s notebook because there was still good paper in it.
Not everyone gets to pick out Ninja Turtle lunchboxes – they eat at school for free.
We are living in hard times disguised by a community of affluence. Sure, not everyone is privileged. Not everyone has the same opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that a kid shouldn’t have a pencil so that she can learn and arm herself with an education. Isn’t it our responsibilities as their village to ensure that these kids have what they need in order to be successful? You aren’t being asked to buy them a meal or a car or even health insurance; these are not kids who are on welfare. They have two working parents who are trying to make ends meet but at the end of the day the choice is heat or medicine and paper and crayons just don’t make the cut.
In the end, the most powerful weapon we can give our children is an education. A few extra school supplies may be all they need to connect in school. It’s worth the extra few dollars. I promise.
That backpack we packed (and the over 1000 collected by our local community), was delivered to a needy 4th grade boy. He’s going to the same elementary school my kids are zoned for. The reason those teachers haven’t called their class roster is because on the first day of Pre-Planning, they were out in the community delivering the book bags and school supplies. Door to door. They spent the second day of Pre-Planning in district meetings about how to meet the needs of these students. They’ve worked all weekend to get their classroom together so that they can make sure that it is warm, inviting, and engaging. For some of the students in your son’s class, it may be the only safe place they go all year.
It takes a village. One day, you may be glad you’re a part of it.