5.03.2013

Feeling Blue About Blue Jean Day

It's not like a dollar is a lot of money, right?

But this week I found myself contemplating, perhaps more so than usual, just what one dollar can buy.

At the grocery store that dollar could buy me at least three packages of ramen noodles. That's three evenings of dinner.

But for my daughter, that one dollar would mean she could wear jeans to school on Friday.

And fit in with all her other classmates who were wearing jeans.

And as she listed for me all the reasons wearing jeans WAS REALLY IMPORTANT, I have to admit...I wasn't really listening.

Because I was tired, still had a headache, and was hungry. And darn it, that one dollar could buy three packages of ramen noodles.

Which I tried to explain to her would be my dinner for the next three nights.

And, lip quivering, she said "so I can't have a dollar for jean day?"

And these are the thoughts that raced through my mind:

How many times is this type of conversation repeated in homes all across America where hunger is so real it feels as if it is another person sitting at the table. It isn't just about jeans day, but every scrap of paper that comes home from school from the dedicated parent group or classroom asking for students to ask their parents to buy class pictures, books, wrapping paper, cookie dough. Or asking parents to go visit a local restaurant where 10% of their meal that night will be donated back to the school. Or after school extracurricular club or athlete fees. Or summer program to Costa Rica fees (just $2000 for a two week tour that can count for college credit and looks great on your college application).

It's a long list, isn't it? And while the average, every day family not struggling to make every dollar into more than three packages of ramen noodles, may be able to afford some (but certainly not all) of the extras...

...some simply can't. And quite often because they can't they are made to feel, in a subtle way, as if they don't care enough about their children. As if they jeans day, or silly hat day, or pajama day participation is what demonstrates to their community that their child has value and worth.

But that's not a standard of measurement I want to have or encourage.

I'm sure if I added up all the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars I have thoughtlessly handed my children these last ten years of schooling I could probably have supported a trip for all of us to Costa Rica.

But even better, I probably could have helped feed a family in my community.

Yes, my daughter got that dollar and she skipped her way into school that day. And so did another child I'm sure.

A child whose mother went without a meal just to make sure that no one thought less of her child or made her child feel different.

Hunger in America isn't other, it really is the family right next door.




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