Monday, August 15, 2011

The gift of feeling prepared

Over the last few weeks, we have done our share of back to school shopping. School supplies, a couple of new outfits for the girls, and even new backpacks. Some of these things are required, and some are not, but they represent the ways we enthusiastically anticipate and prepare for the start of a new school year. It's an exciting time as the girls wait to hear who their teachers will be and count down till the first day of school!

A couple of days ago, as a family of five came to the church hoping for financial assistance, I experienced a very different perspective on the school year. This family had undergone financial hardship since their move to Jacksonville last year. While one of the children was excited about starting school, the others were less than thrilled (admittedly, because they had no clothes or school supplies). While the dad explained their situation, he expressed his frustration over not being able to provide for his family, particularly during this time of year. After a few minutes, another minister and I led this family to a room of clothing that was not yet organized, but might help them get started on some back to school clothing.

As we entered the room, the youngest child (a seven year old boy) lit up when he immediately spotted an over-sized gray sweatshirt. It was worn and twice his size, but he called it "so cool," then asked if he could please have it. My heart sank, and I was humbled by his unexpected gratitude over something I had so easily taken for granted - the feeling of being prepared to start a new year of school.

While we have had our share of financial crunches, we have never failed to find a way to make ends meet. We've never faced eviction or the threat of having our utilities turned off. We've never had to send our children to school feeling unprepared or inadequate to be there. I imagine that feeling unprepared to begin school can have a definite impact on a child's enthusiasm for learning and confidence to achieve success in school.

This Saturday, The Well is partnering with Northeast Florida Community Action Agency to host a Neighborhood Back to School Bash in Springfield. It's not only about providing for families in need, it's also about fostering a sense of community and an atmosphere of anticipation at this critical time in the lives of families. We are celebrating the start of a new school year, eating together, playing games, honoring teachers, and sharing supplies with children who may not feel prepared to return to school. It's going to be an exciting time, and a great opportunity to support one another in preparing our kids for a new school year. I hope to see some of you there!

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