Thursday, December 17, 2009

Must Be Santa...

One of the most worn holiday books in my house is Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed.  The extraordinarily illustrated tale - which Breathed presents to us as a true one - follows a young boy as he encounters an old hermit named Saunder Clos who converts the solidly skeptical child into a lifelong believer in Christmas. 

The same thing has happened to me this holiday season. 

It wasn't an old bearded hermit surrounded by tiny, pointy-eared friends who turned my humbug into hope this was an elementary school full of generous teachers. 

The school falls under the watch of  Title1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  This is the provision that ensures all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, will receive "a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education."  In other words, many of the children in the school are poor.

One of the high schools in this crowded metropolitan school district has an annual fundraiser every December to buy bicycles for children in their schools who might not otherwise have a gift under the Christmas tree.  Teachers in Title 1 schools are asked to identify students to receive the bikes, and then to consult with parents of those children to make sure the gifts will be meaningful.  

The bicycles had been promised this year.  But the fundraiser fell short of the promises.  The teachers at the school received an email late Monday filling them in:  "We need 10 more bicycles.  They cost $75 each.  Let's try to raise the money."  

Before dawn had broken on the next school day, every bicycle had been funded.  By teachers.  You know...the very people who are in the trenches with our children every day.  The ones we expect to mold and shape and educate the next generation.  The heroes who bring snacks to school for children who are hungry, buy coats for children who are cold, give away hundreds of thousands of pencils and markers and crayons to children who never show up with supplies.  The professionals among us who are paid an annual salary to compete with drywall installers, game wardens, and postal carriers ($45,600).  

They gave without hesitation, even though they've already given those children so much.  

I won't overstate the saintliness of teachers.  They are human.  There are good ones and bad ones, as is the case in every profession.  But they are with our children.  They are paying attention.  They are dipping into their own depleted bank accounts at Christmas to ensure "fair, equal, significant opportunity" for every child.  

They know opportunity sometimes comes with pedals and two wheels and a big, red bow.  

...if you ask if I'm not making all this up, I'll say this:  The word of the Red Ranger of Mars should be all you need.  And if you ask if I believe in Santa Claus, I'll say this:  Mind your own business.  And if you ask about that tree on a Christmas morning a lifetime ago, the one holding the last little bit of an old man's faith and the first of a sour-faced little boy's... 
It's from the book.

And, it's from real life, too.  Both make me smile and give me hope.  


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