Well, it’s back to school and the time of year I reflect on our children and their future. I had the privilege of coordinating a back to school community event last weekend and witnessed seeing the smiling faces of three hundred and fifty children, many of whom received a backpack filled with school supplies. This wasn’t just any backpack—it was a backpack that transformed many of their frowns into smiles and lifted their spirits from despair to hope. The children were excited to get paper, pencils, glue and scissors and start a new year with new friends, new teachers, new clothes for some and new expectations. Each of them will have the opportunity to start the year, on a level playing field, empowered with their backpack which contains everything they need to be successful. They have tools to write, create, draw, and do homework. However, it’s not just these tools they need to be successful.
They need support from a united community of Sunday school teachers, pastors, parents, grandparents, and teachers to make it in today’s society where many of our students are getting left behind. Some of our children, by no fault of their own, find themselves in abusive homes, conditions of poverty, alone on the streets, in the company of gangs, wards of the state or worse. Underneath the smiles, many carry feelings of desolation, frustration and dejection. Some will get off the school bus and go to an empty home where there are no parents, no food and no structure. Many will go home to a parent who does not have the educational background to understand his/her child’s math homework. Some will even go home to a parent who simply does not care because he/she is merely trying to make it day-to-day. These realities are a formula for disaster and destruction.
In order to succeed and pass from one grade to the next, these students need YOU. They need me. They need caring adults who are willing to be “inconvenienced” by helping them with homework, tutoring at the local Boys and Girls Club, picking students up from school and taking them out for ice cream, or encouraging them to do their best when we see them at Walmart. Those three hundred and fifty smiling faces I had the privilege of bringing together are ready to succeed, equipped with their backpack of supplies. Can they count on us to do our part and give them the continuous support and nurturing they need? Are we willing to help them become leaders and assets in our communities? Can they count on us to be a part of “their village”? I will be the first to admit, we are all busy and can come up with a myriad of excuses why we cannot make a difference, but these children need us to be their cheerleaders, their coaches, their mentors. Let’s help the children in our communities create beautiful works of art we are all proud of by giving a little of our time, talent and treasure. Together, we’ll find there really is power in a backpack!
~Coletta Jones Patterson