What Poverty Looks Like – A Response

Before you read what I have to say check out this article from Babble, This Is What Poverty Looks Like and then head back over here…I’ll wait.

I work in one of the poorest schools in the district in which I live, let me share some stats with you:

100% of kids get free and reduced breakfast every day

90% get free and reduced lunch

40 kids take home a bag of food every Friday to sustain them for the weekend

100% get a sack lunch on half-days so that they are guaranteed two meals that day

Some are homeless, some live in one bed motel rooms with their mom and siblings, others live anywhere they can find.

These last few days it’s been so cold here that schools have been closed – school was closed on a Friday meaning the delivery of the weekend food bags was not able to take place…meaning 40 kids may or may not have had food for five days.

The fact that some of these sweet children do not have a home means that for five days they did not have a safe, warm place to come because school was closed.

I understand that it was so bitterly cold we couldn’t allow the kids to come to school…but for many of the kids I work with, going out in the cold in order to be someplace warm for six hours would have been better than being in the cold for five straight days.

This is what poverty looks like….

It’s the girl who attaches herself to my waist for the first five minutes of every day

The boy who has every right to be angry and lash out due to his circumstances but channels his anger creatively, turning out some of the best drawings I’ve ever seen from a second grader

It’s the little second grader who is reading at a kindergarten level but improving each day

It’s the girl who wrote an essay (second grade mind you) about wanting school uniforms so that she can’t be bullied about her clothes

It’s the young boy sleeping during silent reading because he was up all night caring for his baby sister

It’s never knowing from one day to the next which students will be in class that day

It’s seeing the pure joy when they get that little white sack each Friday, knowing that they will have food for the weekend

It’s the little girl who wants attention – and too be loved – so badly that all she knows is hurt. She knows that if she acts hateful and ugly she’ll get attention

These children have no choice

They have not chosen to live this way, they have no control over their situations, and they have every right to be angry but the majority don’t realize the gravity of their circumstances.

I pray everyday for the teachers I work with who deal with this on a daily basis – you see, I’m just a volunteer, I go in two days a week and work with these kids but their teachers see it every day.

I have the opportunity each week to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this school, with these kids. These kids have the potential to become great leaders, great thinkers, teachers, scientists, writers…anything they want to become.

These kids are balls of clay waiting to be molded and shaped. One girl told me a few weeks ago that she loves to write and wants to be a writer someday, one boy started writing his own book, and another spends his free time reading every book he can get his little hands on.

It’s up to their teachers and mentors to do the molding and the shaping.

The school that I am in has mentors that come for the high risk students, they work one-on-one with reading, writing, any academic area that needs work. They encourage, they listen, but most importantly…they love.

Teachers have become parents, counselors, and friends to these kids. School has become a safe haven…a home.

There are days where I get in my car when I get done volunteering and just cry. You see the hurt, the uncertainty, and you just want to do something…but what?

I’ll tell you what, you love them, because sometimes you are exactly what they need when they need it. I’m not naive enough to pretend that love will fix everything but it certainly won’t hurt.

“Love can’t conquer all, but it can conquer quite a lot”* oh how true that is…

This is a much heavier post than what I typically write, but I needed to share a little bit of my heart tonight. My heart is heavy with the thought of my kids (I know they aren’t actually my kids but when you pour your heart into those little people for so long they begin to feel like a part of you), my heart is heavy with the thought of them in this bitter, bitter cold.

I ask that you please pray for them, the students and faculty members. Pray also for the families of these students.



*quote from the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the incomparable Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey. 


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