Recently Daniel and I sat down with Jeanette Reber, principal at Ashley Park Elementary, a Title I school on Charlotte’s West side. Mrs. Reber graciously gave us an hour and half of her time sharing, with much passion, the challenging environment the majority of her students live in daily. Every principal in Charlotte has a tough job ensuring the learning atmosphere is prime for their students’ success; however, principals like Mrs. Reber have additional struggles they must consider when caring for the students they shepherd and lead. Mrs. Reber’s students come from extremely marginalized communities where pantries at home are not always full, where local gang leaders are recruiting young boys as early as 5th grade, and where survival is an effort on the forefront of many of her 1st graders’ minds. Her school’s staff and teachers are much more than just educators and often times develop sobering insight to the home life of their students.
She shared story after story of her experiences with these children she loves so dearly. By the end of our time my soul was torn between both terrible heartache and excited jubilee. Daniel read my mind before I could speak and asked what else that Beds for Kids could specifically do to help her students and their families. “My children need lamps”. As if she knew the question was coming she said that the beds and kitchen tables and desks were awesome but that lamps were just as vital. “So many of my children live in housing where overhead lighting is minimal and possibly limited only to the bathroom and kitchen. Therefore my students end up doing their homework either inches away from the TV screen in order to see or on the bathroom countertop. So many students have been given multiple new book bags in August and bikes before Christmas but they still lack something as essential as a lamp all year long, and thus, they continue to struggle in school.” I was blown away, not just because I had never placed such emphasis on BFK providing lamps but that I had continued to assume that I knew the exact needs for those in poverty. God’s Word tells us in Galations “to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.” And I am reminded that in order to truly share in the struggles of my neighbor as Christ calls us to, I must really come to know and spend time with my neighbor first.
All that being said, I ask for two things from those reading this blog post. 1) Help us collect more lamps to serve our families with and, 2) consider getting to know the neighbor you intend to serve before assuming what their greatest need is. Invite them over to a meal, spend time with another parent and have a play date with their children, and then see just what the Lord opens up your eyes to as you actually live in community with your neighbor rather than always serving them from a distance.