|Interns Geraldine (L) and Alicia (R) ready to hand out school supplies.|
Guest blog by Geraldine Garcia
Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I agree but I also know that you, yourself, are also a powerful weapon that can be used to help change the world.
To understand my passion for education and the people who have impacted me to try and change the world, you need to step into my world. My family and I refer to this time in our lives as “03”. It was the end of my 7th grade school year. My dad started to get sick and we weren’t exactly sure of the cause. His feet would swell up so bad, he was unable to wear shoes, and his sugar levels were all over the place. He began to miss work and his boss had to let him go. My dad was in and out of the doctor’s office undergoing tests. Foot ulcers would lead to amputation if he didn’t stop working and gain control of his health.
My dad is what we call in Spanish, “trabajador” [worker]. I remember, as a child, my dad worked two, sometimes three jobs, just so we could have what we needed and a little extra. Growing up, my sisters and I didn’t have much but we did have all the necessities and love, which goes along way. We didn’t know anything else so we thought we lived pretty good.
“03” changed everything for us. Now, my mother was the main bread winner, and my dad was struggling with health issues; coming to the realization that he no longer could take care of his family the way he used to.
Somehow, we managed to stick together as a team. The Bible teaches, “for I know the plans I have for you declares the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11.)”
The struggles my family faced that summer came and went and I realized school would be starting soon. The best way to sum up how I felt about school was simple; I just didn’t want to go. I remember clearly going into my closet trying to dig out old school supplies and looking for the pencils and pens that still “looked new”. This way the kids around me couldn’t tell that they were the same old supplies from last year. We needed assistance paying our light bill and turned to our neighborhood church. It was here that my family met Maggie.
Maggie was a warm-hearted, caring volunteer who was able to offer us some assistance. During one of our meetings, she asked me if I was ready for school. I didn’t know how to answer her. Do I tell her the truth or just smile and nod my head? She could tell I wasn’t looking forward to the new year. When she finished talking to my dad, she ask me how many of my sisters were in school (At that time it was my older sister and I.) and asked me to follow her to a room with new school supplies laid out on tables. She told me to take an HEB bag and go around the table and fill it with the amount listed of each particular school supply. She gave me an extra bag so I can fill it with supplies for my sister.
“Hope anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19).”
My hope was restored in that moment, by an act of kindness. Although I was only 12, I knew that I never wanted to feel hopeless again. I didn’t want other kids to feel discouraged to go back to school because they didn’t have supplies.
Once the school year progressed and my family got back on track, I didn’t forget the kindness or generosity I felt. I started to attend the church that helped my family, and every summer I would buy not only my school supplies but extra. I would wait and collect and find families that needed the help and donate it to them. I’ve done this just about every year. Now as a teacher I find myself stocking up for my kiddos and classroom.
Children are our future. If we don’t invest in them, who will? One day these kids will be doctors, lawyers, financial advisers, and educators for generations to come. So, I leave you with these final thoughts. First and foremost, I am grateful to be a part of this extravaganza that will impact the lives of many children.
Thank you for allowing me to reflect on my own personal experiences and draw strength from them. I feel that I have the best of both worlds because, as a teacher, “we take a hand, open a mind, and touch a heart” and, as social worker John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said, “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
Geraldine Garcia is an elementary school teacher and masters level student in the social work program of OLLU. She served an internship through Baptist Temple Ministries where she provided counseling and groceries to the food insecure, free meals to the communities and tutoring for at risk children.