Smiling faces, new clothes, freshly loaded backpacks, and new haircuts permeated Facebook yesterday. Most schools in the area opened the new year yesterday and lots of moms and dads were snapping pictures. (We even received a selfie from our youngest son as he started his second year of college!) These “first-day-of-school” pictures have become traditions of celebration in many of our homes.
I wondered, “What happened in other homes on Monday?” While I know that the pictures aren’t a big deal in many good homes, I also know that this celebration that we saw wasn’t something that many students could even imagine.
Some moms sent their kids to school more thankful that their sons or daughters would get a free lunch at school–the only real meal they would have all day. Some moms sent their kids to school just hoping that they would be safe until the bus arrived. Some moms were aware but not engaged at all in their kids’ first day. In fact, those kids were just trying to get to school where it is relatively safe, clean, and positive. In virtually every way, they feel as if they are on their own.
We are often blind to the pain that so many other kids face. We think, “not here, not in my town.” Yet, every day the free lunch program provides the only meal a kid will have, the encouragement of a teacher will be the only educational help a kid will receive, and the security of those locked doors will be the only safety that kid will feel all day.
Several mentoring programs seek to help bridge the gap for these kids. Both high schools benefit from mentoring programs. I know that middle school students get the benefit from some mentoring help. Even elementary schools have some programs. What they all need is volunteers. Our church seeks to match healthy adults with groups of kids and we struggle to staff them adequately. Schools struggle even more.
What can you do? Decide today that a child’s life is a priceless gift. Decide that a child’s life is worth an hour of your time. Decide that you will be the visible expression of Jesus’ mercy as you encourage a kid in his studies, in his self-confidence, in his future. Call any school campus and ask about mentoring. The high schools will connect you with Dena Petty. The middle schools & elementary schools all have needs. Each campus will help you make a connection with a kid who needs someone who cares.