26 January, 2007

This Will Break Your Heart For Sure

At Christmastime I was watching my sister unwrap her teacher gifts from all of her students. There were plenty of lotions and soaps and candles. A few parents gave gift certificates to malls or restaurants and there were the obligatory Christmas doodads. Teachers are magnets for the "Under $15" gift.

In the middle of the piles of holiday-wrapped goodies there was one stinky plastic grocery bag. It reeked of cigarette smoke and the musty odor of unwashed people crammed in an unaired apartment. Inside was an old spiral notebook with several pages torn out. The other pages were covered in crayon scribbles. A few dirty and dull crayons were also in the bag, along with one chewed and weary #2 pencil. The accompanying note said, in a kindergartner's handwriting something we assumed meant 'Merry Christmas from Justine*'.

That was the best Christmas present my sister has ever gotten from a student. That little girl gave her everything she had. She gave a precious book of drawings and her last few crayons, I'm sure.

I just got off the phone with my sister. Yesterday was the 100th day of school, and they always do a ream (which is actually a 1000, but whatever) of activities to drive home the point of "100" and teach the value of that number. One of the activities involved asking the kids what they'd do with $100. Most kids wanted X-box games, American Girl dolls and other typical 6 year old dreams.

When they got to Justine she had a very simple answer.

"I would buy lots of groceries."

God in Heaven. There is a six-year-old child whose fondest dream is to have lots of groceries. Toys do not even exist in her comprehension of the world. A toy is so far down her list of priorities that she doesn't even think to mention it when she's dreaming big. Her big dream is to eat.

I can't even think of anything else to say about it. Her dream is to buy groceries. That kills me.


At 5:19 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger Ned Williams said...

That is a powerful story, and I'm glad your sister is in Justine's life.

Thanks for passing the story along.

At 6:12 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

It reminds me of something similiar from a few years ago. The ladies of the church I attended held a Christmas party for some kids and Santa came and asked what they wanted. These are kids who are the same age and they wanted blankets because it was cold at night when they were asleep.

Well, the ladies of the church found out and got to work. They made blankets for the kids, and the next year at VBS that was the project for all the kids in art that day. I joined in, made a few and helped with art because nothing convinces fifth and sixth grade boys to shut up and do it even if you think it's not cool as a couple of guys up there making blankets.

But that story still breaks my heart...

At 6:18 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger Lynnster said...

Knew it was gonna make me cry. Read it anyway. Thank you for sharing that. I think I really needed to read something like that today.

At 8:58 PM, January 26, 2007, Anonymous Tabitha said...

Thanks Kat...

That really makes me think, and it's putting the rest of my weekend in ultra perspective.

Thank you!

At 9:09 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger CHEZ BEZ said...

Thanks for sharing that story. I've got my list of petty complaints, but my fridge runneth over.

At 7:25 AM, January 27, 2007, Blogger Newscoma said...

This is heartbreaking.

At 6:14 PM, January 27, 2007, Blogger Sonia said...


At 2:41 PM, January 29, 2007, Anonymous -t said...

Thanks for sharing this. Breaks my heart, and makes me want to DO something. I wish I could leave some groceries (and crayons) on her doorstep. I may not be able to do that, but I can at least be on the lookout for other 'Justines' around me. One person at a time.



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