By P. Berman, K. Hecht & A. Hosack,
I can’t believe it! Look what she did for me! I can’t…
Claire was holding the Saturday morning newspaper and feeling in shock. She had planned to just lay on the sofa and relax watching TV- it wasn’t easy to find time to just hang out and not try to accomplish a chore or a job. Davy was outside playing with Mr. Carson; Claire had time just for herself. She had sipped a little milk from her glass, put it down on the coffee table, and accidentally knocked the newspaper onto the floor. Reaching down to pick it up she saw the editorial page and…. Mrs. Carson’s name.
Claire was riveted to the newspaper. and immediately started reading. Mrs. Carson hadn’t mentioned her name but…it was her story- how she had been yelled at when she was trying so hard to take care of that little boy. Mrs. Carson had written to the newspaper about her! She had stood up for her in front of the whole town! “Mrs. Carson, Mrs. Carson come quick,” Claire yelled as she stood up from the couch and rushed to the stairs- Mrs. Carson was upstairs doing chores.
“Claire,” Mrs. Carson said rushing down the stairs to be enveloped into Claire’s bear hug.
I was so scared to hear her yelling my name but… (Mrs. Carson was confused) this must be something good!
Mrs. Carson melted into Claire’s embrace. “What is it Claire?” she asked gently. Claire sobbed into Mrs. Carson’s shoulder, “You wrote about me! Come to the living room and see, it is in the newspaper.” Mrs. Carson followed Claire into the living room and took the newspaper from her hand. There it was at the top of the editorial section.
“They published it,” Mrs. Carson said proudly. “I didn’t think they would, but I hoped…” Claire was jumping up and down with excitement, “it means so much to me that you would do this! I still can’t believe you did it,” Claire said gasping for breath. “I am going to get Davy and Mr. Carson,” Claire said, “you should read the letter to them in the living room- that way we can all share it.” Claire rushed outside, Mrs. Carson just wandered into the living room, not sure whether to stand or sit.
I really did it. I wanted to write it. It was so hard. But I did it.
Even seeing the published letter, Mrs. Carson found it hard to believe she had actually written it – and sent it in. Mrs. Carson was friendly and warm one-to-one but generally tried to be invisible when out in a public setting. She had to push herself, a little, to approach Shelly that important day in the park, when Claire had been introduced to her future career. But, addressing the community was something she would never have considered a few years ago. She had begun to think about doing something, but she didn’t know what, after Mr. Carson had gone to talk to their church board about donating money to Head Start.
The church board had listened to Mr. Carson but given a lot of reasons that made no sense to her about why they wouldn’t give money to Head Start. The board had said that church funds had traditionally only been used for projects that would in some way benefit the members of the church. Mr. Carson had been disappointed. He believed that a good Christian should give money to benefit the poor; Head Start existed to help support the academic success of poor children. He left the board room shaking his head at their faulty reasoning. He had told Mrs. Carson that he thought the board was wrong but, he felt they had respectfully listened to his point of view.
Mrs. had been very angry by the board’s behavior and hadn’t known what to do. How could her church, which always talked of caring for children, not consider donating to Head Start appropriate? Her anger kept her up at night until she came up with a plan, she thought would discharge it. Mrs. Carson had been saving up for a new dishwasher for several years- putting the odd dollar and change away. Reflecting on it, she didn’t think she could tolerate continuing to live with her anger at the board. She was quite sure she could live with the flawed dishwasher. Without telling anyone, Mrs. Carson sent all the money she had accumulated to Head Start; she found she could sleep again.
Writing an editorial to the newspaper took even more courage from Mrs. Carson than sending an anonymous donation. Now, she had engaged in a type of social advocacy. Her letter was trying to influence people who read the newspaper. She wanted them to understand what it was like for a young person like Claire, to be yelled at and not listened to, when trying to do a good job. She wanted them to think more carefully how they treated others.
I kept my donation to Head start a secret. What I have done now is no longer a secret.
It had felt good to send money to Head Start. It was strange that she had never told Mr. Carson about what she had done. Had she unintentionally denied him the pleasure of knowing their family had done something good for Head Start- even if their church hadn’t? Mrs. Carson wrote the letter to the editor to try to help young people like Claire – not to make herself feel good. But unintentionally, this action step was making her feel better about herself as a foster mother and a woman in the world. She had come up with her own plan of action and carried it through.
I hope he likes my letter. I wrote respectfully but I did not mince words. I hope I was a good role model for Claire.
Mr. Carson and Davy filed into the living room. Claire told them to sit down, there was a surprise in the newspaper and Mrs. Carson was going to read it to them. “We all know what it is like to work hard and have our hard work go unnoticed,” Mrs. Carson started (Mr. Carson was nodding), “We also know what it is like to work hard and have this work not only unappreciated but also degraded. This happened to my daughter today…” Claire broke into tears and hugged Davy close. “What are you crying about mommy?” Davy asked, “I thought it was a good thing that Mrs. Carson got into the newspaper?”
“It is a good thing, my Davy, it is just that, I never thought to hear Mrs. Carson call me her daughter and (1-minute pause, Claire is fighting back the tears) it sounds so wonderful it makes me cry happy tears.” Davy gave his mommy his serious look, “happy tears doesn’t make sense mommy, stop crying and let’s celebrate….”
Mr. Carson redirected the attention back to his wife, “We will have ice cream Davy as soon as the author reads her entire letter to us!” Mr. Carson was beaming with pride as Mrs. Carson picked up the newspaper and finished reading her editorial. Reading the letter out-loud also helped Davy learn from what Mrs. Carson has done; you can take action to try to make a difference. Then, you could reward your hard work with…ice cream!
Would you consider yourself an introvert? An extrovert? Somewhere in between?
Whenever you have an experience, thoughts will go through your mind; it’s inevitable. But it can be hard to stand up and express your opinion, even on an issue that is important to you. Being an active not a passive bystander takes practice and courage. Is there an injustice you have witnessed recently?
Is there anything you could do about it? A step that might just be pushing your comfort zone one step further?