Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Being There for Children

On Saturday I was reminded, in two very different ways, the value of being there for children. I started my day at Normandy High School at 8:30AM for Expectation: Graduation – Reach Out to Drop Outs Program. The Normandy School District and community wide event drew over 100 volunteers; me included, and aimed at reaching out to those students who had dropped out of school and see if we can get them back.

We went out in teams with school district staff and community volunteers paired together with the hope of knocking on over 100 doors and getting as many children back in school as possible. I was fortunate to be on a team with Dr. Stanton Lawrence the superintendent of the Normandy School District. In the year that Dr. Lawrence has been here in St. Louis from Houston he has brought energy, enthusiasm and an unwavering commitment to the success of each and every child in the Normandy School District. I have had the privilege of getting to know Stan, convince him to join the board of Beyond Housing and consider him a friend.

At the second home visited the sixteen year old young man we hoped to bring back to school answered the door. I wish I could adequately describe the look on his face when Stan introduced himself as the superintendent and said he wanted him to come back to school. This young man saw the leader of the school district and a group of other concerned people come to his house and tells him he matters. A meeting was scheduled for the student and his mother to go to the high school and continue the process of having him get his diploma. Our team made contact with seven out of the eight homes we visited. The students and their families seemed genuinely appreciative of the effort all the volunteers were giving to lend a hand. We tried to show both the students and their families that we cared and wanted that child to, as a friend of mine recently told me, “build a successful life”. We tried to be there for these children, especially Stan Lawrence.

Later on Saturday, I took my oldest child, Nick now 20, back to Chicago for his junior year of college. On the way there we stopped at the Illinois State Fair to see the famous 70’s – 80’s rock band Heart (you know Barracuda, Dreamboat Annie, Crazy on You – work with me). Nick, an audio engineering major at Columbia College, has a wide ranging taste in music including loving Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. We left St. Louis around 6:30PM headed to Springfield, Illinois for the fair.

Nick is my only child from my first marriage and has lived with me since the divorce when he was three and with my wife Christine and our two children Jackson, 14 and Sophia, 11. Nick and I have always been close by necessity and by choice. I have tried to present in his life at every possible moment. The concert was great – the Wilson sisters can still rock the house. We chose not to go to the livestock portion of the state fair but it was good to see that you could buy meat on bun, a plate, a stick and many other tools if you wanted. As we drove to Springfield and later to Chicago he and I had incredibly expansive conversation about a number of things including abortion, health care, Beyond Housing, his education and his future I am his father and certainly have my bias but I believe my son is fine young man. His future is still unclear but what is clear is that he is positioned to do well and build that successful life for himself. It is clear that he had many people in his life that cared for him from my wife Christine, to his own mother and his grandparents. We all tried to be there for him. I think he will do the same with the people in his life as well.

Being there is sometimes a small thing, three and half hours on a Saturday in the Normandy School District and sometimes a big thing, being a parent (I am told it never really ends). I hope we can all be there for children in small and large ways.

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