For our children, make this season about something greater.
The holiday season is here again, and for many of us, it comes with the added stress of extra events on the calendar, gift giving, and traveling to or the hosting of friends and family. I swear my life is looking more and more like the Griswold Family Christmas with each passing year. As my own children have gotten older, I have however learned one very precious, extremely important lesson: Find the time to slow down and reflect. Reflect on your life, your relationships and consider the many things you have to be thankful for.
I'm most thankful for my two daughters, Abigail and Sophia; my wife, Kim; Grandma Janet and Grandpa Robert; our many friends; and the facts that my children are healthy, we have food in our cupboards and a roof over our heads. Is life perfect? Hardly. But I still have lots of things — the most important things — to be thankful for.
Sadly, too many of our local children won't have this experience during the holiday season. In April, the News Tribune quoted representatives from the Central Missouri Food Bank as stating one in every six children lives in a household without a steady supply of food. One in six. In an average-sized elementary school, that's about 75 students. There are children here in our own community who may go hungry while their school is not in session during the holidays. Worst yet, some may not have quality interaction with a caring adult until they come back from their break. Some of you out there work two jobs to make ends meet, others do without certain things during the holidays so Santa can visit your children. Many of us though, had an embarrassment of riches on our table for Thanksgiving, and so I'm asking for your assistance this holiday season.
Ours is a generous community, and no child deserves to have an empty belly or spirit, including those hardest to teach or love. So consider giving what you can to any of the great organizations in our community that provide assistance to families and children. If you see a red kettle, toss in a few extra coins than you usually do — it adds up (they take folding money too!). Consider donating a few extra bucks to the Samaritan Center or the Central Missouri Food Bank. If it's time you can part with more easily, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City could sure use a few more school-based mentors. If you haven't mentored before, it's easy to get started and you'll be surprised to learn you end up feeling like the one who received an unexpected, much needed gift, instead of the person giving one.
Lastly, if you meet or serve a current or retired teacher, shake their hand and say thank you. If you are in a position to be able to provide a hand up to someone else this holiday season, you're there partly because of your teachers. If you meet or serve a school principal, counselor, nurse, social worker, lunch lady, secretary, paraprofessional, bus driver or custodian, say double-thanks. These folks' efforts go unseen often times, and they support every success our teachers and students experience — God bless each of you and your families.
Friends, Stronger Together is so much more than a slogan or an ending to a post or tweet — it means taking care of one another, regardless of background, race, creed, color, gender or religion, political leaning or orientation. For me, it's also a reminder at this time of year of what we're called to do and why we're called to do it. The Book of Matthew tells us "The last shall be first, and the first shall be last." Matthew also reminds us our Lord has said "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least among you, you did it for me." I can think of no better way to end this column for the year than with those words.
On behalf of your Board of Education, we are deeply grateful and truly humbled for your continued trust and support of the Jefferson City Public Schools; and thank you for supporting one another. Peace be with you. Merry Christmas, and may you have a blessed, safe and reflective holiday season.
Steve Bruce is the president of the Jefferson City Board of Education. His perspective is published monthly on the editorial page of the News Tribune.