What do Backpacks have to do with Jesus? Good question. Churches all over are beginning to recognize that all children that start to school will not have Backpacks or School supplies. And so Churches are making a plea for their members to make sure that every child will have what they need when school starts. May their tribe increase.
Starting school these days is expensive. There seem to be fees on top of fees. And those with limited income, single parents or those with a multitude of problems are trying to figure out where the money for all these expenses will come from. And when every Johnny and Suzie walk in the door and sit down at a desk—none of them should feel left out or picked on because they don’t have what other kids have. School should be the great leveler. Everybody ought to have a chance at a good education and not be ashamed or embarrassed because they do not have the pencils, paper or whatever that the child next to them has in abundance.
Old timers like myself can remember the good old days. Some of them were actually good. We lived in Georgia—not exactly the finest school systems in the country in the early fifties. I went to a school in a cotton-mill village with kids like myself—all our parents worked in the mill. But even then there were kids that we snickered about and made fun of and must have found those days unbearable. Children then and now can be cruel. But when we sat down at our desks and the teacher passed out the pencils and tablets and construction paper and whatever else it was we all needed—these were provided by the school system. Even then.
I know, I know that inflation hit. I know the economy took a tailspin. I know that schools everywhere are, like parents, wondering where the money will come from for this school year. Statistics say that with this wonderful sequester idea—classrooms will be packed with more children in every room. Support staffs have been pared down. And children whose only good meal for the day comes at the school—are going home hungry.
Meanwhile in Washington we hear the whines from the politicians that represent their well-heeled constituents. No wonder they want vouchers and money for private schools. I don’t know a better way to dry up the public school system. They talk about poor teachers and lousy administrators. Sure there are some crummy teachers and some principals are mediocre. But most of those that teach care about their children and they work hard and do the best they can.
I am very proud of those churches that are beginning to provide school supplies to those who can’t afford them. I think Jesus smiles at this effort. The future generations will depend on those who sit in first grade and other grades this year. Dear God—I hope they have a chance to see some windows and doors they never dreamed open. I hope they begin to feel—poor or not—that they have worth and they are somebody. And I hope morning after morning when they put on their clothes and head out they will not grit their teeth or dread the day.
Maybe we in the church ought to remember that once upon a time Jesus called for the little children to come to him. Those in the crowd thought that very strange. Children had almost no rights at all. But Jesus picked up maybe one or two children and told spoke to all those standing with pursed lips and folded arms. He said that whoever harmed these little ones—it would be better if someone placed a millstone around their necks and cast them into the sea. But, but, but—the grown-folk there protested. Jesus simply kissed those two children, put them and let them go. I thought about that story as I thought about those needed backpacks and those that still stand with pursed lips and folded arms.