Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Of Visqueen, Duct Tape and Shorts Too Tight...

At my school, I have to do morning and afternoon duty. I actually like it. My duty is the parking lot. I get to make sure the cars keep moving and the kids are safe. I like it, though, because it allows me to greet many of our parents in the morning. I think the added benefit is that I get to glimpse their world even if it’s only for a moment. It helps me understand just why some kids behave the way they do.

My school serves children who come from a wide socio-economic status range. We have the kids who are fed and clothed and cared for extremely well. They are kissed an hugged and reminded to do well on their spelling test when they are dropped off at school. They are well-dressed with hair perfectly in place.

And we have those kids who are fending for themselves as they figure out where their next meal is coming from. They are often yelled at, as they, disheveled at best, struggle to step over papers, trash, toys, and other “stuff” just to get out of their cars. Their backpacks are often open and books and papers are spilling out. Their shoes are untied. Sometimes they are not completely dressed.

Recently, I was in the parking lot and I started to notice a trend. Many of the cars that transport our disheveled kids in the morning are held together with visqueen or duct tape. I didn’t really think about it too much except that I remembered when my car window was stuck down a couple of years ago, I couldn’t get that visqueen on there tight enough to save my life. It ended up ripping when I drove and I was freezing. Many of our parents, though, are almost masters at this. Their “windows” are on tight and appear that they will not rip anytime soon.

Today, a car was sitting in our drop-off area and not really going anywhere. Sometimes this means the child simply doesn’t want to get out. Sometimes it means they are still half asleep. I went over to see what was happening. As I peered through the visqueen window, I could see a young boy (age 7) was in the back seat crying his eyes out. Mom was frantically trying to get him out of the car. He didn’t want to come. Suddenly, she handed me a $10 bill and said (in broken English), “His shorts too tight. Buy new.” She told the boy that I would help him in his native language. It took a few more minutes (and some words that I couldn’t begin to translate), but he finally got out of the car.

She just trusted that I would take her money and get the boy shorts. I don’t know if I would hand someone (even if they were wearing a school id badge) ten dollars to get my son shorts, or not. Once the boy got out of the car, I thought, “I’m adding this to my parent pick-up experiences.” I took the money and gave it to a patrol to take the young man to the office and get him some shorts that fit.

Here’s what I have noticed, people who are living in poverty, have to access resources differently than people who are not. They are, however, rather resourceful when they need to be. When you can’t get a car part fixed, you can usually fix it with a little visqueen or hold it together with a little duct tape. This includes when your brake light covers get broken—you use red duct tape for that.

And when you are late for work, and know that it could mean that you won’t be able to buy groceries this week if you lose money, you just might hand anyone a $10 bill to take care of your son’s clothing needs.

It gives a whole new meaning to the words “Whatever it takes…” Doesn’t it?