November Challenges the Spirit of Giving

Leaves in my classroom with the help of my students.

I love fall. I fall in love with fall every year.  Even though I live in Miami, I transform my classroom as much as possible into a leaf falling environment. My students, this year, were fabulous about it. They worked as a team to get the paper leaves up on the ceiling. When the air condition blows, the leaves sway side to side. My students look up and smile. It’s something different.

These kids are special this year. I could tell from the first week of school when I gave them their first challenge. Almost every year my homeroom class wins the school wide can food drive which goes to the local Daily Bread Food Bank.  I say almost but I can’t remember losing any year. I don’t like to lose. It’s just not my thing.

I told them that I would do my best to match whatever they donate. If they bring 20 non-perishable food items, I will bring 20 items as well. They sat there, politely listened, but I didn’t see the spark yet to bring them into action until I told them why I am so passionate about helping in the food drive.

You see, my mom had to raise three girls and a little baby boy on her own. People say she should have worked. I have my moments when I agree with a YES, she should have! Then, I have my moments when I start thinking about all of my fractures and operations throughout my childhood. My mom was the one who was always beside me. My dad was working. When they divorced, my mom was still beside me and my father was still always working.

Once we moved to Miami, Florida, we rarely saw my father. But that’s for another story, which I did write about in  Audacity Magazine. Being a single mother of four children can’t be easy but being a single mother with a physically disabled child who fractures a bone from sneezing and three other rambunctious children must be really rough.

Some of my friends who are physically disabled and have working parents, share stories of being alone post surgery or during recovery at home. I didn’t have that problem. My mom was always there. When I fell out of the freight elevator at the University of Miami in 1992, I was sentenced to three months in bed. My mom was my caretaker.

So yeah, there were some tight financial times in our home. Nothing my family wants to brag about, you know?

My father had moved on with his new family. He gave what the court asked him to give and anything more than that came from our pleas for money to see a doctor, buy food, pay the electricity.

Now this wasn’t the every day occurrence but it happened. None of our friends knew. We didn’t look like we were without. But there were those times when Ramen noodles became a regular item for dinner.

I wonder if my mom knew about food banks back then. Would she have gone? I don’t know. I don’t ask her because some things are better left unsaid.

We never went hungry. We just didn’t really have enough at times. There were other times when we had more than enough. But that’s ok because we have a huge extended family.

So I told this personal story to my students this year and I got more than what I bargained for. Although the food drive runs from November 1-14th.  My students, all 21 of them, have donated more than 225 non-perishable food items. They did this before October 29!

I don’t think they did it because they would get the grand prize, their class photo in the yearbook. I think they did it because they understood that it’s important to pay it forward. It’s important to help others because one day it might be you.

We have a total of 325 items when you include my part. I told them that I was very proud of them and that once I match their donations we should have over 400 items to donate. They said they want to keep donating. Who am I to argue with that?

Challenge your giving spirit this November. If you live in the Miami area, we could definitely use your donation to our classroom stockpile or you can donate it to the local food bank in your area. If my students can do it, you can too! Let me know how it goes.