Letter from a Teacher

To whom it may concern:

As a teacher in the Emporia District I experienced first-hand the impact of the school supply donation generously given by First United Methodist Church.  There is a giant divide in the resources and opportunities available to our young people.  We (in the schools) do our best to narrow the gap so that divide goes unnoticed, but sadly it never seems enough.  The idea that some students are more affluent and have more opportunity is prevalent in our schools. It isn’t uncommon for me as a teacher to provide school supplies for students who don’t have what they need, or avoid certain activities that I would like to do because I know that not all students will have what they need to be successful. This school year, these obstacles weren’t present because of the generous donation of First United Methodist Church.

There are constant reminders in school of who the “haves” and “have nots” are, and students are quick to discover where they rank. Do they pay for their own lunch, or get a “free ride” because of the decisions or circumstances of their parents? Do they have nice, new crayons and pencils, or leftovers from previous years, or even worse, none at all?  The idea that what you have is more important than who you are becomes a part of our childrens’ lives far too early and only gets more prevalent as they get older.

As a community of God, we are called to use our resources to affect change and do God’s work.  Education is quite possibly our greatest tool for changing the pattern of poverty in our community. This donation provides far more than just school supplies. This gift puts our students first, regardless of background; it sets up an expectation, from the first day of school, that everyone is equal and important; it places all students on a level playing field and gives everyone a fair shot at a quality education; it shows that we as Christians believe that all our children deserve a successful future because they have what they need to succeed in the classroom.

While my own daughter would probably really enjoy going shopping for her “special” supplies, this initiative affords me an opportunity to teach her about the value of giving to others. We can talk about donating the money we would have spent on her school supplies to the church so that all the students in Emporia can have what they need to be successful in the coming school year.

This message puts our words into action and teaches our children the importance of taking care of one another. We show that being a Christian and taking care of our neighbor might mean having a plain binder (rather than the fancy one with the kitten on it) so that everyone has a place to put their papers. It teaches our students how by some giving a little, the needs of all can be met.  In essence, it shows that people are more important than things; that the self esteem of the students in our community is priceless. When this precedence is set from an early age, students don’t question it. They learn to appreciate it and later in life they will use it as a light with which to navigate their lives.

As a member of FUMC, I had the joy of taking my daughter with me to help deliver the supplies. Her eyes grew wide as she saw this enormous gift being delivered to school after school. She got to see how her small sacrifice, along with the small sacrifices of others was an enormous benefit to our community. On the first day of school she was elated to see the supplies in the hands of her classmates and to know that God’s love put them there. Hearing her talk about showing God’s love by giving to others is all the affirmation that I need to know that we are doing God’s work by continuing this program.

Thank you for your consideration,
Kelly Barrett
Emporia Middle School, Vocal Music director
FUMC Member