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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rain or Shine, Sleet or Snow

I get up early and I get to work even earlier. I know that's not really possible, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Despite the fact that I'm a morning person, my pre-dawn routine is a necessity and not entirely by choice. If I didn't beat my wife and high-school junior into and out of the shower every morning, my arrival time at school would be less than ideal. So my alarm goes off about 40 minutes before my good dog pup gets his first crack at breakfast at 6am.

My routine is efficient, if not automatic. The timeframe from covers thrown-off to car key turn is about the same every morning. Bleary-eyed, but not stressful. The drive to work is pretty uneventful. There's the first major stoplight where I pour my second cup of coffee, then after the second stoplight, I can hit cruise for about 3 minutes before I need stow my iPod and headphones for the short walk into school.

Shortly after I take my last left handed turn and travel down a stop sign-less boulevard, I pass by a fellow morning warrior and her small contingent of followers. The smallest, a baby, sometimes being carried, but is usually in a stroller pushed by Mom at what can only be called 'mach' walking speed. Following behind, or at least trying to keep the pace, a girl (about 6 or 7) and a boy (maybe 8 or 9).

I've never seen them in the daylight, but every morning they're there. Walking with haste to somewhere. Every morning pretty much the same, rain or shine, sleet or snow.

The boy is usually carrying something that hinders his pace, plastic shopping bags, diaper bags, and almost always his backpack, surely containing homework that his Mom made him complete the night before.

The girl, an energetic little thing, is usually burden free, except for the unauthorized sticks and other contraband that she has picked up along the way. She twirls, skips, and sprints spontaneously along the darkened sidewalk. Seemingly care-free. Like a child should.

Somedays the clan holds fast to a shared umbrella or they have their bare hands stuffed inside a pocket to shield the cold. Somedays the walk is more casual, but never without purpose.

I find my boulevard companions at different points in the mile long stretch, but the variances are due to when I leave the house, not this family's departure time. They do not have the luxury of sleeping in.

It is clear that they leave the house at the same time everyday. The mother, has to get her children to their morning daycare, friend or professional,  so that she can catch the bus to whatever job and its no doubt meager income that helps her to hold her family together. A first task of a demanding schedule.

If she doesn't get her children, my future students, to where they need to be, it could very easily start a downward spiral of events that could bring down this family. Loss of work, loss of housing, loss of security, loss of childhood. The stakes are high.

Many people don't understand the people of my school's neighborhood, where 80% of my students qualify for free or reduced lunch. They have a razor thin margin of error. Life on the edge.

I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the poor in our country. That somehow people have chosen to be poor. That they have chosen to live within a hair width away from catastrophe that even a random circumstance can inflict. That has not been my experience.

There are plenty of stories of folks that have made bad choices. However my classroom is filled with kids who need some help. Kids who need a safe, stable place for 7 hours of the day. A place where they can dream beyond their circumstances and see the possibilities within themselves. A place where they can learn that despite where their families are, they are capable of more. So much more.

I'm there to help them understand that.

Rain or shine, sleet or snow.

Thanks for reading.

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