The holidays are here! That means charity. Yes, we do charitable works at school. Every year, one class per teacher adopts a family. This year, it's second period.
My second period class is a bit unusual. It's a remedial math class and, by the grace of the scheduling gods, it's small. I am thankful the class is small so I can really help these kids learn math. However, there are only three girls in the class; the rest are boys.
During the Kids Can food drive, we only brought in 20 cans. This is compared to larger classes bringing in hundreds of cans. I asked them why. The response I got is that they tried and their mama said that no food leaves the house. It's needed right where it sits.
So the Friday before we go off for the furlough days before Thanksgiving, I get our "Adopt a Family" sheet from the activities director at our school. I cringe and then smile. Mercifully, she has given us one kid, a boy named Leonardo. He is age 10 and likes black.
I take the information back to second period and tell them, "OK guys, it's 'Adopt a Family' time again."
"Adopt a what?" asks D.
"Don't you ever pay attention to nothing? That's where the kids that got some give to the ones that got none," one of my girls says. To me she asks, "We don't have a family, do we?"
"No." I reply. "We have a boy, Leonardo, age 10. Please get out your agendas and let's write down his info. This way, when you are out and about next week, maybe you can pick something out for him."
"I ain't gettin' nothin' for no strange kid. I need stuff for me." J smiles broadly.
C tells him, "Man, this is Christmas. You probably always had stuff under the tree. This kid need us. Without us, his tree gonna be empty."
"Unfortunately, C is correct, guys," I say. "Without us, Leonardo will have nothing."
We go on to talk about the program—why Leonardo and his family were chosen, what it means to them, etc. They ask if they can meet him. I say no. They ask if he needs clothes. I say yes. One of the boys volunteers to get him underwear, because every boy needs new ones. They tell me what they liked when they were 10—would I mind if we got him Levis? My family can't afford much, are socks OK? I say yes to all of it hoping their image of Leonardo with an empty tree at Christmas challenges them enough to do something.
I typically dread the holidays at school. Kids are always so restless, worried. They are bombarded by commercial images night and day of what they should want, who they should be, and it robs them of the joy of celebrating. Sometimes, with a less-than-ideal family situation, they feel badly about themselves. Some kids don't want others to know, especially their peers. I stick to safe topics: 'Where'd you go?' 'Who came to visit?' or 'What did you eat?'
But this year, we have a focus. So far, Leonardo has socks and underwear and a lot of good intentions. One of my students asked if I could go to Target for him. He handed me five dollars in change and said he'd been saving it since before we went off for Thanksgiving. That prompted other kids to ask if they could give me what they'd saved also. It seems they can get the money together, just not the transportation. I told them I would go Monday after school. Looks like Leonardo, and all of us in Ms. Delfino's second period, are going to have a very happy holiday.