Try to be in their shoes

My passion toward children from poverty started with my research with incarcerated youth, later my personal encounter with a homeless person, and then volunteering in a shelter for single moms who struggle with addiction and their children. I started in this shelter today (Aug-18-16) as a volunteer. I enjoyed myself so much with kids there! They are adorable, just like other kids.

On my way driving home from the shelter where I volunteered, I thought to myself about racial tension in this country. We see this tension in media, and in our education. I recently attended a conference on educational equity. Many speakers talked about the tension between minority kids and their teachers. They viewed it as a “racial ” issue since most of  our teachers are white. I don’t totally disagree. However, I also think this has something to do with the drastically different environment where some of our kids and teachers grow up. Let me provide you with some examples.

Consider first the environment some of our kids (lots of them are minority kids) grow up. I think a significant proportion of the kids (often labeled as those trouble makers at schools-headaches for many principals) grow up in a similar environment where I volunteer for-single mom who is very likely having substance abuse problem, bouncing from a place to another (simple true is that you cannot stay in one shelter forever), hearing lots of swearing. I remember today I said to the kids in the shelter”we need to be quiet when the teacher is reading a book”. One of the kid said to me, “do you mean you want us to shut up.” I think for this child, that kind of language is what he hears everyday, and for him, there is nothing rude about this language. Simply put, “shut up” is what you say when you want another person to be quiet.

Then consider the environment where most of our teachers grow up. Maybe a middle class family, with both parents around. When these teachers were little, their mom and dad would take them to a neighborhood library and read to them. At night, mom would snuggle with them, read to them, and kiss them good night. For a boy, their room probably is decorated with Star War sort of theme. For a girl, pink is probably the color of the room, and somewhere in that room you will find a toy house. These girls and boys will go to college, get their teaching license, and be a teacher. For these people, you don’t say “shut up” to ask others to be quiet. You need to be polite and use your manner. Something like “could you please be quiet?”would be more appropriate.
Whose fault is it? Why do kids grow up in such a different environment? Shouldn’t all kids grow up in a stable nurturing environment? As adults, we try to find an answer. I have stopped trying to find an answer. I think this is what we get when we have sinned. We cannot change who was born in a rich family and who were born in a poor family. What we can change is trying to be in others’ shoes, not to blaming how incompetent the parents are but to love all kids as they were our own.

As a Christian, I want to say to my fellow brothers and sisters that please do not think you are there to “give” and they (the poor kids) to “receive”( you are not Jesus). Being together with these kids and spending time with them will teach you way more than any books or postsecondary institution. At least that is my case. If you feel “look at those poor people. How did they end up like this?”, you need to pray that God will help you look at this situation differently. I used to feel that way. This meaning of “me” and “them” is only going to create more distance. Knowing that God created all of us in His image, we must bury this attitude of superiority.








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