As the mercury dropped outside this week, I raised the thermostat, made a cup of tea and snuggled under a blanket on the couch. At one point I drove to the Bissell Centre to drop off some donations. The entrance was riddled with shopping carts and sleeping bags; the people inside finding relief from the frigid temperatures. When I walked in, an odd sense came over me. Sadness, guilt, gratefulness: all wrapped into one.
Before each recess we check the temperature: at – 20 degrees or colder, we stay inside. My trip to the Bissell Centre reminded me that not everyone has that choice, that luxury. I can’t help but wonder what brings people to a point in life where they have no home to go to. I wonder about their individual stories. At some point, they were all children in elementary school, exuberant about life. And now they leave their shopping carts at the door to find refuge from the cold in downtown Edmonton.
When I drove away, the bag of clothing I dropped off seemed so insignificant. My thoughts jolted back to our students. It is devastating to think that any of them might potentially be forced to live on the streets, without a home to call their own.
We certainly cannot predict the path our students will take in life. We can however create a supportive school environment for each and every student. We can help build a foundation of skills: literacy, numeracy, problem solving and critical thinking. We can model empathy and compassion. We can inspire our students to find purpose and passion in life. We can give those deemed ‘at risk’ a little bit of normalcy and acceptance.
I will continue to donate clothing and money for a warm meal here and there; and perhaps to those without, that gesture is not so insignificant. Yet I will also strive to empower each student I encounter. I may not see the results but our students are certainly worth the effort.