Giving a Hand

School SuppliesWith school starting in a few days, I decided to restock my supply cabinet.  Tons of note cards, pencils, pens, folders, and erasers – everything except notebooks, and it’s all ready for the cabinet.

I should add this:  The things you see here?  They’re not for me.

You see, for years now I’ve had students who’ve managed to enter college by the skin of their teeth.  They can juggle funds to pay for the semester, and maybe secure enough to either rent textbooks or find them for free in the library.  But the one area that they’re often lacking in is with school supplies.

Hard as it may be to believe, but I’ve had college students who did not have pencils, paper, or even a folder.  From a financial perspective, they’re completely tapped, and while prices are never better for office supplies than in August, the truth is, some of these “kids” are living hand-to-mouth, bumming a space on the floor from a friend, and eating noodles from a convenient store.  Some are sleeping in their cars, in doorways, or visiting “friends” on campus, just to have a roof over their heads.  Others think that the world is okay until they’ve gotten into a dispute with a parent – maybe they’ve come out of the closet, or have decided to date that person Mom and Dad despises – and suddenly they’re homeless with only the shirt on their backs, but they’re just a semester away from graduation.

None of the above is not hyperbole – I’ve had actual students who’ve fit every one of those scenarios.

“Well, that’s their problem,” you might think, but it’s not.  The fact that a person with next to nothing can recognize that this might be their opportunity for success says a lot.  They need support and understanding, but mostly, they need one less thing to worry about.  So I give this stuff away as is needed.  Truthfully, I might buy some more, just to ensure that I’ve got enough (I’m sure that I do) for the next term, too.

So why not notebooks?  Frankly, I don’t have the storage room for them.  Besides, there’s a part of me that thinks that a student should meet me half-way.  Have some skin in the game, as it were.  Still, I might rethink that.

It’s not about giving a handout; it’s about giving help.  There’s no crime in falling down, but it is one to not try to get up.  And despite what some may think, there will come a day when each one of us needs help.  If my giving a student a pen or a pack of note cards now will in some way help them academically, then I’m happy.  If that academic success leads to personal fulfillment and a life of reasonable happiness, then it’s worth it.

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