Digging through the name labels, I located my son's and separated the folder to pull out a teal blue flier. Bold letters across the top screamed "CHANGE FOR OUR SCHOOLS" and piles of coins were pictured below. Pulling back from the family folders, I slouched against the Principal's wall and read:
My name is Sam and I am a fourth grader at [a school in the district]. For my
ROPES project, I am trying to raise money for our schools. This year we need to
make budget cuts, and we may not have enough money to keep all of our teachers,
our librarians, our PE teachers and our music programs. I want all of you to
join me and go home to get all of your change.
I felt my eyes well up with pride for a fourth grader I would never know. A fourth grader who knew that trying times call for heroes of all sizes and sorts. A fourth grader who asked his fellow students to go home and "get loose change from your piggy banks."
I don't know about your states, but mine is hard hit by this economy. With some of the most underfunded schools in the country, our schools face even deeper cuts and tense decisions. With unemployment rampant, parents I know spend the day in search of a job or the night worrying that they'll lose their job.
Nothing demonstrates who we truly are, though, than hard times. It requires little to be generous when we're flush. It's sharing when we have little. Working harder when we're already exhausted. Volunteering for longer hours, giving what we can, attending one more meeting, being one body that agrees to help.
Last week, I wrote that I believe we are better than what we have become.
The flier in my son's box is proof.
So is the substitute teacher who stood up in this morning's budget meeting and pledged to work 10 days next year for free.
And the single mom who works full time but finds time after she tucks her kids under the covers to create a cooking program based on "real food" or to sign the school up for a green fundraiser.
And the father working two jobs who started a bottle and can drive to encourage recycling and raise money for the school.
And each and every parent who hauls recycling to the curb when it's cheaper to just throw it in the trash because we want to teach our children the importance of responsibility, of treading lightly on our planet.
So too is the family that splurges on one dinner out a month but makes sure to tip the waiter extra to help him through hard times.
And the farmer at the farmers' market who, despite the possibility of losing her farm next month, hands my son a couple extra oranges.
And also the graphic designer who, when laid off, offers her services to a local green group for free.
The truth is, as much as they bickered and traded up on Capitol Hill, the real stimulus package will not come from the people we elect. It is not a matter of billions spent here or tax cuts made there.
The real stimulus package is us. Our generosity. Our dedication. Our creativity. Our willingness to think not of "me" and "you", but of the collective.
There's only one way we come out whole on the other side of this economy, this ecological crises. Clutching the flier in my hand, I head home determined to start tomorrow with a jar full of coins and a heart full of hope.