We know the statistics. We hear the bad news.
“73% of APS students qualify for free or reduced lunch.” - www.aps.edu
“Albuquerque currently has more than 2,000 homeless children under the age of 6.” - www.clnkids.org
“There are 2,316 children in foster care in New Mexico.” - www.adoptuskids.org
“New Mexico has the 2nd highest teacher turnover rate in the nation.” - www.abqjournal.com
Things are SO bad…for our families, for our teachers, for our entire community. How can we hope for change?
I was mulling this over yesterday as I drove to Mission Avenue Elementary School, one of 105 Title 1 APS schools. I was discouraged.
However, my thoughts drifted to the time I’d spent volunteering in a classroom that morning. The teacher that I help had experienced a very difficult morning, as had her educational assistant. I had helped to keep the kids going for about 3 hours while they dealt with various things… attempting to do damage control and breathe for a bit. The thanks they poured out on me, I felt, was disproportionate to the actual tasks I’d done. I hadn’t really felt like I’d done much at all, but just be there with them in the midst of the mess.
As it turns out, that’s what mattered most.
“I’m just so glad you were here to feel our pain,” the hardworking EA said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for just showing up today.”
Just showing up. Really, that’s essentially all I’d done.
“Ok”, I thought, “that’s what we do, then. We don’t need to have all the answers. We just need to show up.”
I turned down Mission Avenue and headed toward the school. As I pulled into the parking lot, this is what I saw.
I promise I’m not making this up.
As a church, as a community, as a city-wide family, we have to show up. Though the numbers are daunting, though the situation looks bleak, though the ideal seems out of reach….
Showing up looks different depending on who you are, but each of us is needed and has a role to fill. For you, showing up may look like playing basketball with some kids at your local public school during recess once a week. It may look like leading your business to purchase classroom supplies for a teacher. It may look like your group of friends hosting a lunch for your local public school’s staff. It may look like making a special presentation in a classroom to inspire little minds to dream. It may look like interviewing kids at the science fair, and telling them how creative and brilliant they are. It may look like starting an after-school club. It may look like helping a child who’s struggling with math to finally break through and find that he can do it. Whatever your passion, whatever your stage of life, there is a hole in our public schools that you can fill.
What our public school community needs is transformation and hope; and Church, we profess to be people of transformation and hope. We cannot change the public school system overnight; but we can change the trajectory of a teacher’s day, of a child’s week, of a school’s year. We can invest our time, our money, our energy, and our talents to bring hope to the next generation. We can bring relief to the suffering, and show them that they are valuable, that they are seen, that they are not forgotten.
I know…showing up…it’s not always easy. In fact, it’s rarely easy. It demands sacrifice. It requires much from us that we’d rather spend on ourselves. It’s uncomfortable.
But it changes everything for the one who is suffering.
If you’ve never considered your role, or your church’s role, in our public school system, please think and pray over it. You are needed. And you don’t have to have it all figured out.
Just show up.