I think my heart broke for a little girl today. Not my little girl, it was a little girl in my 1st grade class. What’s odd about the whole situation is that today I did something good to help her, but just doing it actually made me MORE emotional than before I did anything. I brought her a sweatshirt. It was a gently used, hot pink sweatshirt that Emi had outgrown. The sweatshirt said “GYMNAST” across the front, had some bling on the letters and a tiny heart as a zipper pull. I remember when Emi got the sweatshirt…one of her grandmas had taken her shopping at Justice. We love Justice. I’m sure my little student probably doesn’t even know what Justice is?!! She probably doesn’t know what a “gymnast” is either, nor will she ever have a chance to be one. (Do you see why my heart breaks?)
I’ve been teaching 1st grade for 18 years. My students are very needy, most are poor, and many are neglected. Before I was a mommy, I used to spend TONS of money on my classroom and on my students. Now I just can’t do that. After I became a mommy, I had to learn how to disconnect when I left work, because if I thought about how these children were living and compared it to how my own daughter lives, it was too painful. I know I can’t save the world, so I do my best when I’m there and even though I don’t shower them with gifts and treats, they are really appreciative of what I do for them. I sometimes think they even enjoy getting disciplined because after I’ve spent a day disciplining them they’ll still hug me and tell me they love me as they leave out the door. Maybe it’s just the fact that SOMEONE is paying enough attention to them and disciplining them at all? I don’t know?
So back to the little girl….She’s adorable (I think all of my students are adorable though). She’s adorable, as in a cute little face and a head of light brown wavy hair with bangs. She’s pretty quiet but when she talks to me, I cannot understand her because her speech impediment is so bad. (don’t get me started that no one has done anything to get her referred for speech because it’s BAD). She comes to school in her WAY TOO BIG uniform everyday. When I watch her walk out to recess, I can see the shoes slipping on and off because they are about 4 sizes too big. (I’m not exaggerating about this either). I recently noticed that she’s been wearing this GIANT women’s size jacket over her uniform. It’s something with pink and white and the arms are WAY long. Well, as the days passed this week, I noticed that the jacket would appear to be dirtier and dirtier each day. Like FILTHY. Most likely I noticed this because the sleeves were white but it hurt my tummy to see it, because in my mind, little all girls should be happy and cute and clean. (I worry about Emi’s finger nails and ALWAYS make her wash them before going somewhere) I just kept feeling ill that this little girl was sitting here, dirty at school, just trying to get by. I’ve had students in my classroom before who were labeled as “homeless”, I just don’t know enough about this particular class yet, since it’s still the beginning of the school year. So today, I finally did it, I remembered to bring in the sweatshirt for her! I couldn’t directly give it to her, so I put it in the office and had them call her up. She came back with the sweatshirt in her hands and within 3 minutes, she was wearing it…..AND SHE HAD THIS LITTLE SMILE ON HER FACE AS SHE WAS DOING HER WORK!
No one in the class knew, but I knew, and I almost started crying! I had to sneak a picture of her as she was proudly working on her Math, but I had a giant lump in my throat for the rest of the day and even as I blog this, I feel like I could start bawling my head off! My daughter is sitting in the other room, Face Timing her cousin and playing with toys while they chat…and I think about my little student and know that she’s sharing some tiny space with 5 other siblings and probably isn’t doing what my daughter is doing. I know she doesn’t have a soccer game tomorrow or have any sleepovers to attend. It hurts my heart to think about it, but I have to smile and know that I did something good for someone in need today. I have to remember that sometimes it’s the little things and in this case, the sweatshirt is the little thing.
Oh Wendy, what a sweetheart you are. I’ve worked with disadvantaged kids before and it truly breaks my heart. I want to bring them all home, give them all warm baths and a yummy dinner and new PJs and goodnight hugs and kisses… And I can’t. And neither can you. And it sucks. But you are so good at making those around you feel good inside, and this was such a sweet gift. Please let me know if there’s anything we can donate for your classroom, either supplies to use or clothing, etc. for the kids. Love you!