Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Amazing Grace" Jonathan Kozol Reflection

Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace" really opened my eyes to a world entirely different to the world in which I grew up.  Although Kozol references to 1991, over 20 years ago, the numbers and statistics presented are shocking.  The piece states "At the elementary school that serves the neighborhood across the avenue, only seven of the 800 children do not qualify for free school lunches.  'Five of those seven,' says the principal, 'get reduced-price lunches, because they are classified only 'poor,' not 'destitute.''"  The town that I grew up in was almost entirely middle to upper class Caucasian families.  I doubt that there were even seven kids that did receive free or reduced lunch.  It really makes me sad to think that the free lunch that many children receive at school is the only full, balanced meal they get all day.  Looking back, myself and all the kids I went to school with, were so sheltered from any lifestyle different than ours.  

I teach dance at a YMCA in  the greater Providence area.  I remember two events in particular that opened my eyes for the first time, when I was just sixteen, volunteering.  The first was when a three year old girl began crying when her tap shoe broke.  She was extremely upset because her "mommy paid a lot of money for the shoes and would be mad".  I definitely was not thinking about money when I was three.  Another was when a single mother of three approached us after class to ask if she could pay for her three daughters costumes (a total of $45) late because she didn't have the money right then.  She told us that we didn't need to give her older two daughters (ages six and eight) their costumes until she paid because they knew she couldn't afford them, but asked if we could give her three year old her costume because she didn't understand that yet.  It took her three months to save up that money.  When I was little and in dance, my mom was always writing checks for costumes, tuition etc.  I never thought twice about asking for a check for something school or dance related.

Although reading and hearing about things like this upsets me, they also make my urge to help those less fortunate, particularly children, even greater.  I don't think any child should have to worry about whether or not they will have dinner or a warm place to sleep at night.   I hope to help children that have very little to give them a chance to achieve their greatest success. 

1 comment:

  1. Valerie i am really glad that you shared your story with us in class. Although short it has great significance. I also am proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone, to help those in need. You have a great perspective that is needed desperately you unlike most, know what "normalcy" is. You know what comfort and family is and what these children deserve and i hope you continue to advocate and work with them!