I read this article last week about how a man in Burlington, Iowa paid overdue lunch fees for 89 children. If you think these are isolated incidents, or new, you can read about many more here, here, and here.
Arguably, the boy in the first article, Dylan Duran was more aware of the other child’s plight, and noticed him without anything all day except a fruit cup, which he ate all alone, because Dylan and his mother had been homeless and hungry a few years before.
It’s a rhetorical question, but should be reflective: How have we gotten so far away from community that adults take food out of the hands of hungry children (to throw away!) while other children who have not always had enough, notice their hungry peers and selflessly take action to help them?
If you think these type of things don’t happen in your community, I implore you to look anew. I can guarantee you they happen in mine.
I had lunch with my (extremely generous) boss a few months ago, and he told me a story about his family anonymously paying for a student to go on a field trip. It touched me on a personal level. A field trip is not a ‘necessity’. It’s not a breakfast or a pencil; instead it’s a moment a child will have to learn something outside of the classroom, it’s a fun excursion, it’s a memory- and the memory of not being able to go would likely be a lasting one.
Childhood is fleeting, and dignity is a lifelong construct. To start that early watching one’s classmates have a special experience and being excluded, to experience even once, having a lunch taken out of one’s little hands and thrown away before wide little eyes as a punishment for a parent’s lack of resources is incredibly cruel.
Each year my boss gives each employee a substantial amount of money to donate as they wish. Incredible things have happened pretty quietly in our community (and worldwide) because of this. All of these stories and his local one inspired me to donate to five local schools with the instructions that the funds be used for children who might not otherwise be able to afford to go on field trips.
The point of all this, is that there are small ways to affect the lives of others in every community, whether that is walking into a school and paying overdue lunch fines for a number of children, or by one child bring one lunch for a peer; and I hope instead of hearing these stories and removing ourselves by thinking how unfeeling these ‘other’ people are, instead we have our own eyes opened a little more to ways we can be more compassionate towards our fellow humans.