With the school year soon encroaching on the waning summer fun, parents everywhere are rejoicing. Kids are sulking in between whining over boredom. There’s a ripple of unsettling air coming through on the stale summer breeze.
It’s a prelude of the chaos that will voraciously erupt with back-to-school preparations, like a sneeze coming from a kid with a sinus infection’s snot-crusted nose: the massive, gelatinous, green glop bubbles in and out of the inflamed nostril with each rapid, croupy breath, just as the sales and advertisements will spew their time-crunching countdowns from every media outlet possible. Newspapers, commercials, internet advertising, Facebook pages and Blogs, radio advertisement, billboards, etc.
The sight of the bubbling advertising snot is enough to cause widespread panic to erupt in the search for tissues high and low, before it becomes contagious. The viewing of these repetitive, pervasive announcements to buy all the right stuff, sends the masses out in droves. Everyone becomes panicked over loading up on the right style of gear, the perfect look to fit in with the crowd clothes, and all the supplies necessary for an entire school year- or else their kids will be left behind eating dust with the loser kids. No parent wants their child to be “the loser kid.”
Where’s the humanity in this? Have we lost our kindness and our compassion in the name of our own selfish desires and ideals? What lessons are learned by teaching our children they must have everything conceivable for an entire school year, all of which is brand spanking new, all purchases by the very first day. Which is, typically, just a half of day anyways for a very short school week! We stoop so low as to take outward action preventing judgement from being passed on our offspring. Yet, we never stop for a moment to consider those kids we’re not wanting ours to be pegged as.
We give no more than a passing thought as we purchase a single, cheap, sale item, with little consideration for the child who might receive it, to toss contritely into the donation collection bins. The ones which are strategically placed near the entrance ways, so you immediately notice it’s looming presence coming in to that mainstream, all-in-one store, but, also, so you will also feel terribly guilty walking past it empty-handed on your way out. Unless, that is, you’ve done your civil duty already and made a purchase to donate a half dozen trips, or so, ago, giving you the right to ignore those loathsome bins now. Bins long forgotten about, before you even locate your keys and pop the trunk you’re about to fill with the bags of many nicer, more stylish, better quality, purchases for your own child(ren).
Sure, it isn’t your fault, nor your problem even, these kids aren’t lucky enough to have parents able to provide the same kind of lifestyle you work so hard to give your own. Neither is it the fault of those kids, who often do not have many other reasons to smile and feel happy about, for circumstances out of their innocent little hands. They are the one’s who have to face the first day of school with whatever charity’s donate, pieced together from that collection bin, plus hand-me-downs from thrift shops and internet swap groups, plus whatever of last year’s leftovers are still nice, which their parents scrounge up.
This year, let’s slow down and stop the rat race. We’re creating a Black Friday atmosphere over pencils and notebooks, rulers and calculators, tennis shoes and backpacks. Greedily stocking up on things our kids won’t even need until the end of second trimester in February, thinking of our own family’s needs. Avoiding the possibility of our children not measuring up against the standard. Unable to repudiate that flicker of a fleeting thought from the store. Inept to show an ounce of sympathy for those you wouldn’t want your own children to be tagged as, at the start of a fresh year.
Let’s show our children how to be accepting of everyone for what’s on the inside, by toning down the hoopla over Back-to-School style. We can show them that having style doesn’t always mean it has to be brand new, be covered in designer names, or be national chain store-bought. Start teaching moderation and mindfulness when they are actually listening. Most importantly, though, let’s show them it’s just as good to give as it is to receive. Incorporate our kids into the donation process and let them take a moment themselves to think about what it must be like to be on the losing end.
What harm can it do to throw out a few limitations and say, “This year, kids, we’re only getting what’s necessary for right now and spend the difference to help those who have nothing at all.” PAY IT FORWARD AND CHANGE A LIFE. Then, just maybe, this new generation that we’re molding will strive further to break the barriers on all of the stigmas, labels, stereotypes, and judgement- once and for all. After all, we don’t want to be crusty-green-snot-nosed bubbling boogers, do we? I know I don’t.
Here’s some ways that you can get your family involved in helping families in need:
1. Make purchases that you would make for your own child to add to the collection bins. EVERY. Single. Time. You shop at that store. Have your children choose the items so that way you know another child that same age will be as happy as yours would be.
2. Have your child think of a few kids in their grade that they know comes from a family not well-to-do or call the office and ask for suggestions of a family, giving you only the sex and ages to protect privacy, then arrange to drop off finished package on first day of school for the staff to pass out. Buy them a backpack and stuff full with a new outfit, new pajamas, a pack of underwear, a pack of socks, (gift receipts just in case sizes don’t match), travel size toiletries, and a few school supplies. Most low-income families can afford the ten cent pencils, crayons, and notebooks, it’s the larger, more costly, more necessary to fit-in items that are needed most.
3. Call your local United Way chapter or Salvation Army to find an organization you can work directly with to provide assistance for Back-to-School.
4. Call your local radio station or go to their website. Many will host events to collect school supplies for charities.
5. Call your local Department of Human Services (it may be called something slightly different state to state) and talk with someone in Child Protective Services/Foster Care about donations. They always are in need of clothing, personal care, baby care, and bedding items year-round.
6. Facebook is a treasure trove of parent/baby/children’s swap groups. If you look hard enough, some are actually designated as free or trade only. That’s where you can find many families who will be looking for help. Put up a post with your full intentions for the help you’re offering and specify that the offer is limited to the first, or the first of however many, to comment on the post who meet the specifications you’ve listed (ie: location in relativity to yours, ages of children receiving your help, whether they need to be on state assistance or not so you know as fact that they’re low-income, etc.).