Around 6:45 a.m. I unlock our front door so that when the neighborhood kids start arriving, they can just walk in. These days, it’s chilly in the mornings, and the golden hallway light spills out onto our porch. When I open the door to see just how cold it is, I glance at the cars parked on James Street, waiting for the light to change. It is busy at that time, on a Monday.
I make plenty of breakfast and go upstairs for something. Maile is looking at her phone.
“I don’t know what to do,” she says. She received a text, addressed, “Hi Abra’s Mom.” Abra’s friend, who usually comes to our house to walk with Abra to school, went on to say that her younger sibling didn’t have anyone to walk her to school, and the elementary school starts after the junior high school, and since she had to walk her sister to school, she wouldn’t be able to walk with Abra. She’d be late to school, too.
She’s eleven years old. She just wanted to let us know, so we wouldn’t worry, or wait for her.
* * * * *
I know for a fact that a lot of people who don’t have children in the School District of Lancaster (the district that serves nearly 11,000 kids in our small city) think of these kids in a particular way.
I know, because I used to be one of those people.
When our oldest son, back in 2018, told one of the moms at his home school co-op that he would be attending McCaskey High School in the city later that fall as a freshman, her first response wasn’t to encourage him or wish him the best but to go on a mini-tirade about the pregnancy rates in the school.
When Maile shared that our kids would be going to public school, she was met with a similar barrage of fear. “I don’t know how anyone could send their kids to city schools,” one mom said.
“Is it even safe, walking around there?” someone else asked.
“You mean during the day?” Maile asked, incredulous. The person nodded.
Yet our personal experience couldn’t be further from these fear-based narratives.
Yes, the young people here in the city are presented with challenges I never had to face in my rural upbringing. And yes, there are a small percentage that make negative decisions that will have huge implications for the rest of their lives.
But the overwhelming majority of kids I’ve crossed paths with since our children started attending the SDOL have been respectful, motivated, and kind. They’ve befriended our kids. They’ve shown themselves to be hard workers. They make a huge effort every morning JUST TO GET TO SCHOOL. Many of Abra’s junior high friends are responsible for picking up younger, elementary-aged siblings. Many of them walk well over a mile, no matter the weather, so that they can learn.
There’s too much garbage out there about the schools in the city, and I’m weary of hearing it, especially when it comes from people who don’t know a single child that lives or goes to school here.
* * * * *
Abra’s friend was able to work it out so that her younger sister could get to school with someone else. In the meantime, we told her to bring her sister to our house next time, and she can join us when we take Sam down to the elementary school.
Our house is quickly becoming a morning magnet of activity, and to be honest, we love it. We make extra pancakes. We invite kids in. We leave our door unlocked. As usual, we asked the kids if they wanted to pray with us, and they all crowd into the dining room.
Am I claiming nothing bad will ever happen to us? Am I saying our kids will make perfect choices their entire life?
No, but that’s not the point. These kids we’re meeting in the city are the point, and they’ve been a gift to us. I hope we can be the same to this wonderful district full of precious young people.