Well, I can't believe it.. but here we go again!! With the end of July begins the mad rush to prepare for another school year. Clothes shopping, school supply shopping, shoe shopping.. and if you have kids in athletics.. O.M.G. does that list get double long!! With one son in college (no longer in athletics), a high school senior who plays EVERYTHING and a sophomore daughter in cheer and track (indoor AND outdoor) just the cost of shoes alone can break the bank!! BUT.. like all loving parents, we do everything we can to make sure our little darlings are prepared for the year ahead.
For some, this time of year brings a fun out-of-town shopping trip with our kids.. kind of a last hoorah of summer before they head back to the classroom; for many school shopping might put a little sting in our wallets and stretch our budgets a little thin; but for some it means going without.. without a nice pair of shoes, without paper or a binder, without a backpack or bag to carry books... You get the idea.
We all remember that kid in school. High-water pants, a fairly worn t-shirt, worn and tattered shoes. Hell, some of us may have been that kid. By the way, if you're the jack wagon who teased that kid and asked if he or she was expecting a flood, unless you've changed, you might as well sign off now, you'll get nothing out of this.
Several years ago, in Southern California while I was still a police officer, I was part of a group of officers who went around to families in need and delivered donated school supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks and the like (most of it donated by us, the police officers). I will never forget this one little boy. I walked into the house and the first thing I noticed is that the place was spotless.. don't get me wrong, it wasn't museum spotless, but it was nicely kept. The furniture was old (probably second or even third hand). The two kids were clean and obviously taken care of but you could tell the clothes they wore were most likely hand-me-downs or bought at a second hand store as well.
The parents were proud people and worked hard but at some point had fallen on hard times. They didn't explain and I didn't ask.
This little boy and his sister were enthralled with us.. the fact that a police officer came to visit them special. He was excited and told us about how he was going to be a good big brother and watch over his sister because she was starting school this year. He couldn't wait to see his teachers and play with his friends. His favorite class was lunch because that recess was long but loved history (I told him history was my favorite class in school too).
The parents smiled and enjoyed the time we were there but always with a hint of sadness hidden deep in their eyes. I could tell they were embarrassed. The time came to hand out goodies so out to the trunk of my police car we went. I pulled out a super hero backpack with everything a young, aspiring historian would need for his 3rd grade year, a couple t-shirts and pairs of shorts; and then, I pulled out a pair of shoes.. (I still get choked up even writing this almost 15 years later).
The look of utter happiness and excitement as he dropped to the ground and tore off his old shoes and put on the new ones was nothing I had ever seen; especially over a pair of tennis shoes. He got one laced up and suddenly began to cry as he jumped to his feet. This 8 year old boy grabbed hold of my waist and hugged me like we were old friends who hadn't seen each other is in years. He just kept repeating, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." I bent down and told him he was very welcome As I did he grabbed my neck, hugged me tight and quietly told me, "Now the other kids won't tease me."
I had such a mix of emotions in that moment.. sadness, love, guilt, gratitude, anger... I honestly was at a loss for words and I'll admit it, the big tough cop who got into law enforcement to protect those who can't protect themselves got pretty choked up.
I shook the parents hands and gave them my card. I told them to never hesitate to call me directly if they needed anything because I was always willing to give good people a hand 'up'.
Folks, there are lots of people just like this family right here. Oklahomans, above all else, are know for neighbor helping neighbor in a time of need. During natural disasters we rally behind the banner of 'Oklahoma Strong' and give our time, money and compassion to those we do not even know. We are a shining example of people coming together in common cause.
Consider this, when you are out buying school supplies, will it break the bank to buy one extra binder, or a ream of paper, or an extra package of pencils or crayons? For some a t-shirt or pair of shoes might be asking a lot, but for others an inexpensive pair shoes is absolutely doable.
I challenge every person who reads this to buy ONE extra 'something' this year as we hurry about doing our school shopping and donate it to an area charity, or a local teacher that will put it in the hands of someone who doesn't just need it, but who will truly appreciate it.
Those of you who know me know I am firmly against giving to someone looking for and expecting a hand-out.. but I am all about giving folks a hand UP.
If you're not sure who to give the items to, I invite you to bring them by or sent them to our Edmond office. I know a few teachers who will get these hands up where they need to go.