Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Childlike Love, Chicago, IL

I volunteer at an elementary school where over 90% of the young students qualify for free lunch. One of the activities we volunteers participate in is assisting these children with their homework and reading skills. I personally witnessed the tragedy of passing children on to middle school without the basic reading skills needed to assimilate and survive in any further advanced learning. I had volunteered for my wife in a Media Center where these students worked with computers and books. Many of these frustrated students become the ones who continually disrupt classes and occupy 80% of the classroom teacher’s attention to the detriment of those students who are there to receive an education and better their lives.

On this afternoon I was working with a very sweet little girl. She had initially told me that she couldn’t read which prevented her from doing her assigned homework. But our coordinator pulled me aside to point out that she was smart enough to master the art of manipulating adults. So we regrouped and started the reading lesson once again about a Frog and Fox dealing with a very hot and humid summer day. When the girl stumbled on a word, we simply took the time to sound it out and become familiar enough with the word for the next encounter.

About half way through the assignment we were interrupted by the presence of two policemen and a young boy outside the glass doors of our room. Our coordinator went outside to help with the situation. I tried to get the young girl back on task, but she was obviously shaken by the policemen. She looked up wide-eyed and proclaimed in a foreign adult manner, “I’m afraid of the police! They put my daddy in prison. My mamma had to go to the police station and get my daddy!” When the coordinator returned she mentioned that the boy had apparently gotten off his bus at the wrong stop and became lost in the community. Since he couldn’t speak very fluent English, the policemen were returning him to the school to help get him home safely. This became a teachable moment to talk to the girl about how the policemen are here to help us and keep us safe.

The little girl was then able to finish the story and answer the follow up questions. We finished our lesson with the frog and fox helping each other to turn on a fan so that both of them could survive the heat of the day. And the girl not only read the entire story with a little help, but perhaps she also learned that the policemen are here to work together with all of us to help keep us safe. And I learned why I was present that day.

It’s been said that God helps those who help themselves, although that’s really not scriptural. The Benedictine monks had a Latin phrase of “ora et labora” or “pray and work”. But there are plenty of folks out there that literally cannot help themselves, especially children, and scripture does reveal that God will provide his grace through people like you and me and first responders throughout the community.

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