As I drove to work today, I passed a person standing on the side of the road holding a sign that said “Please help. Need work and food.”
I do not know this young person’s story or what experiences led to standing on a corner hoping for hand-outs. Further, I do not want to make any assumptions about the legitimacy of these needs for work and food. Many in our community are hungry on a daily basis and rely on the good work of Dare to Care and its member agencies to get sustenance. I also know that there are folks that wish to work but find themselves unemployed due to a lack of education, training and credentials to fill open positions for 21st century jobs. It is not my place to judge those who beg on the street corners; but, I know that this is the very definition of a hand-out.
A chance encounter like driving by the sign-holder this morning, always lead me back to a sincere appreciation for the motivation and determination of our parent scholars. To a one, the single parents we serve have chosen to work toward their goals and earn the education necessary for the career of their dreams while raising their children to value education, hard work and community. On many days, our FSH team is praised for putting so much into our work to help disadvantages families break the cycle of poverty. It is hard to accept praise for our efforts on their behalf when we know how hard they are working to do the right things for themselves, their children and their community. They are the hardest working people that we know.
Imagine being not only the first in your family to go to college but also the first in your family to complete high school. Imagine handling the college coursework in a technologically-advanced world when the only computers you have ever used were at your school or the library because the home in which you grew up did not have computers, Wi-Fi, or smart phones. Now, imagine doing all of these new and scary things while being responsible for a child who looks to you for everything. I know it can be overwhelming and I know many people would want to give up. Our student parents do not see giving up as an option.
For the parent scholars and children at Family Scholar House we are their coaches, cheerleaders, water boys, and counselors. What we do to empower them is important; but, what they are doing to change their opportunities and those of their children is awe-inspiring. This is what a hand up looks like. We know from our experience and our outcomes that what our participants most want is the chance to be a contributing member of our community and a positive role model for their children. Each and every day, they are earning the opportunity to rise above their current circumstances. Instead of signs, they long to hold diplomas – theirs and those of their children.
As you bow your head in prayer or take a private moment to reflect on the many blessings in your life, I would ask that you also think of our families. They are too busy to beg and too determined to give up. Their children’s future depends upon the decisions they are making today and that alone keeps them motivated to succeed. As supporters of Family Scholar House, you are part of the extended family that nurtures their dreams and encourages them to persevere. Margaret Mead was right, “”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”