Today I drove down a street we used to live on. It sits in a part of town that hovers on the cusp of two areas best described as “okay” and “not that good”. It was not terrible when we lived there, it’s not terrible now either. It simply remains locked in that purgatory between, as if any major event could tip it over the line at any time.
I have had drives down that street before where up ahead I saw cars slow to a crawl as they rolled past someone standing out by the mailbox. An arm would reach out quickly and palms would slap with the person standing casually on the side of the road, a quick money/package exchange taking place. The car would then roll on and the person would casually walk back toward the duplex or simply stand there as if daring anyone who saw it to have an opinion about it.
Today, as I made my way down the street on the way to Kroger, I saw groups of kids milling about. They were perched on bikes, one foot on the ground, holding them up. The other foot sat on the opposite pedal, ready to take off at a moment’s notice. They were smiling and laughing in the merriment kids have when school is done for the day and they do not have to go back in the next day.
Our district is virtual on Fridays now. Kids who need or want to can go to school, but they will do work virtually from that location the same as the kids who are at home do. These kids were essentially experiencing the joy of Friday on Thursday. They chatted and laughed while they held in their hands juice boxes. I had seen the exact same juice boxes just a couple hours earlier.
I had been the first car in my group in the elementary school pickup line. I watched through the side mirror as my two youngest came running up to the vehicle to get in, backpacks bouncing jauntily on their backs. They were carrying identical cardboard boxes in their hands. “Why do they have boxes?” the older boys asked. “I have no idea” I answered them. Oliver opened the door for Jude to slide in first. Jude sat his box down on the seat and began to talk animatedly, while moving at the exact speed of molasses. Anyone who has had to wait in that car line for him to get in or out of the car can attest to the truth in that description. “Hurry!” I said, “Get in!” They both slid in the backseat.
“Well, what’s in the box?” Elijah asked. Jude opened his box for everyone to look in as I began to drive home. Inside the box was an assortment of food items as well as a juice box and a small container of milk. “I bet this is because school is virtual tomorrow” I said. “Oh yeah,” Isaac piped in, “there was an announcement today at school that if you weren’t coming to school tomorrow you could get a food box to take home.”
So many things are uncertain now and frankly, I was kind of relieved to see the kids come out with the boxes of food items. We don’t have food insecurity at our house. We are lucky enough to be able to provide meals for all the people that live here, as well as an abundance of snacks. I know, though, there are a lot of kids who realistically only get good food when they are at school. Cutting out an entire day of meals comes at a cost.
I know that work went into those boxes. Someone had to plan, package, prepare and hand them out to the kids at the school. I know that was no small task. Doing just about anything during a pandemic seems to require the kind of work that exhausts everyone. I see it in my own work every day. Exhausted, overworked, and stressed out people trying to provide help to others while their own fuses run short and sources of hope are depleted.
The fact that the school just did it anyway, just sent all those food boxes home with all those kids, it just lifted me. I know many of those kids need that food. The needs of our neighbors are just so big now. When people just step up and do the extra work because it is the right thing to do, it reminds me that there are a great number of people out there who care about one another. It can be easy to forget that these days.
As I drove down that street today and saw those kids already making good use of the contents of those food boxes, I felt relief. To be honest, a little bit of relief goes a long way these days.