Living in a middle class neighborhood is a wonderful experience. Being able to share what we can with families who struggle, for whatever reason, emotionally humbling. My wife and I had the opportunity to do some community outreach work. My participation was limited, my wife's commendable.
The local high school my wife works at decided to help an elementary school who's students are the poorest in the city. This school is even shunned by the local community. They believe because the school is located in the center of the worse neighborhood in the city it must be of the lowest quality. As much as the residents can they try to place their children in schools outside their own district. You would think this would be a detriment to the school but it has had a reverse effect.
The school has only one hundred and twenty children of mixed background and some of the most compassionate teachers available in the city. These kids are from families that are literally dirt poor, mostly single parent homes with little or no disposable income.
The project, which started in June of last year, was to collect donated Christmas presents from our community and donate them to our sponsored school. The organizers would set up a faux shopping mall on the stage and the kids could buy presents for their family members. Every item was priced at ten cents and every student was given thirty cents, donated by the student association at our local high school.
The children would be greeted by enthusiastic high school student volunteers who would then help them with their purchases. The children were then directed to a Christmas wrapping station and their presents would be lovingly wrapped and labeled for them. The last stop would be for a drink and a snack, for which the children were very grateful.
The high school student volunteers were exceptional, very gentle and sweet with the young children. They made sure the children had the best time possible. One notable student was a trumpet player in the school band. He played his trumpet from 9:30 till 1:30 with one forty minute break. My wife noticed at one point he was in some distress, so she approached him and suggested a break. This young man had braces and the pressure of playing the trumpet was causing his lips to bleed. He told my wife he just needed a few seconds and he would be OK. After about half a minute he started to toot that horn as blood from his lips dripped off his chin.
My wife asked him if there was an item on the stage he would like for himself or his family. He told her that the CD he saw titled Spaceballs was his father's favorite movie. My wife suggested he go up and take it for himself, but he refused until all the kids were done shopping. The CD was quickly put aside and in the end given to the young man. He insisted on paying for it and sneakily placed fifty cents in my wife's pocket.
The young children at the school were also heart warming. One little girl after getting her present wrapped, exclaimed quite confidently, " these presents are so good, you could have easily charged twenty cents for them."
Another little boy in grade one bought a large stuffed lamb, came down off the stage trembling with excitement, and quiveringly exclaimed, "I can't believe I bought this for a dime".
The most heart warming and heart breaking moment happened when a little boy bought a little cardboard box with the word "happiness" written on it. It was meant as a box for wrapping a present, but he insisted on just wrapping the box. Of course, reluctantly the student volunteers did.
My wife witnessed this and asked the little boy why he didn't put a present in it. Then the most extraordinary thing happened. He said, " my mommy was crying and said she wanted a little bit of happiness, so I bought this box. It says right on it, "Happiness."
This actually happened. There is hope!
I had a hard time writing this, I hope it conveys what a beautiful day this was.