Promise and Hope and Back-2-School Jam

The flyer said: “Back-2-School Jam! – School uniforms, backpacks, and supplies for kids who need them! Entertainment and free food provided! Pre-registration costs $3.” When I arrived at 8:00 a.m. — an hour early — to set up the Act Locally Waco tent, there were already plenty of families waiting. At 9:00 a.m. Pastor Gaylon Foreman from Carver Park Baptist Church blessed us with a word of prayer, and a long line of parents and kids began to wind its way past tables stacked with donated pencils, and glue sticks, and backpacks, and all the other supplies a kid needs to start the school year. b2b 1

I’m not good at estimating crowds, but it seemed like we saw about a thousand kids by lunch time. I am talking about every possible variety of kid – girl, boy, Black, White, Brown, tall, short, fat, thin, shy, sassy, happy, grouchy, dirty, clean…each one beautiful. (We took lots of pictures so you can see for yourself if you visit the album on our Facebook page!)

These are not the richest kids. If they were, I imagine they would have been at Target or watching cartoons instead of standing in line in a parking lot on a blessedly “not-as-hot-as-it-could-have-been-in-August” Saturday morning receiving school supplies from nice ladies in bright orange t-shirts. They are not rich financially…but watching them in all their fidget-y, wiggly, sometimes giggly, sometimes whiney, sometimes sleepy, altogether normal “kid-ness”… it nearly made me cry to think how rich they are in potential.

It seemed so simple this morning in the parking lot: We all win if these kids win. We all lose if these kids lose.

Yet somehow it gets much more complicated when we actually have to decide how much of our  state’s money we want to spend on education, and which districts are going to get more of that money, and which are going to get less. I’m not so naïve as to think that every problem in our current school system can be solved with more money.  Still, the schools with more tend to do better than the schools with less.  I think our schools — especially our Waco schools — are “doing a lot with what they’ve got,” and I think more money would help them.    b2b-2

This morning, as I watched a steady stream of kids walk, or skip, or slouch, or run by …I couldn’t help but think we will all be better off  in the long run if these kids live up to their potential. Really good schools make that more likely. I wish that we, as a state, would focus less on the cost of education and more on the return on the investment.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the recently completed session of the 83rd Texas Legislature restored $4 billion of the $5.4 billion it cut from K-12 education in 2011. That’s a start. I hope next time we will replace all the money that has been cut and add  more. That’s my hope — and this is, after all, the season of hope — I mean, is there anything in this world more hopeful and full of promise than the beginning of a new school year?

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Many thanks and blessings to Mia Thomas and the folks at Road to Damascus Resource Center and Transition Home for organizing today’s terrific “Back-2-School Bash.”

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b2b3This week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton.  If you are interested in writing a post for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org.

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