That was not going to be the title of this post. It was supposed to be “Choices.”  But spellcheck determined otherwise. I could’ve corrected it. But, it fit. 

Early this morning, I stepped on a school bus for the first time in many years. And I took a ride. It was a nice bus. We drove for just under 2 hours, all over the district. The goal of this trip was to see the growth of our district and what its potential impact was. And wow. Are we growing. 

The day started out cold. As we drove through a new housing development, we could see that there were so many lots that had already been sold. Home values were a $180,000 and up. This one particular area is where the most rapid growth has been. And, interestingly enough, gets the blame a lot of time for the “bad” kids. 

Across the street and deeper in our trip, less than a mile or two as the crow flies, we got to see another side. Old homes, trailers, cars on blocks. And you could feel it in the air – children live here. 

But that was just a sample. When you think it can’t be worse – it can. Children living in sheds with no electricity or running water. The mood was gloomy, and we didn’t see anyone outside. Conditions that are unimaginable for most people. 

And yet. The children that live here go to the same schools as those wearing $100 shoes. Who have absolutely no way of understanding each other. We don’t talk about the differences, because that would be admitting that it exists. We all have equal opportunity, right?  It’s about making the right choices. And while I do agree with that, so much – what about the kids who don’t have choices to make?  We can say to ourselves that they can see the difference and so if they apply themselves and work hard, they can rise up. 

Can they? Is that really a realistic view?  Or have we learned how to compartmentalize so much that it is the only answer we can give anymore?  How does a 5 year old make a choice about electricity if he’s never known it?  How does a 16 year old participate in extracurricular activities if his only transportation to and from school is a bus?

How does a child know what it’s like – when they only eat lunch at school?  When they only have one change of clothes and no running water to wash them in?  When people don’t “see” him, because it hurts too much?

And how can a child of 5 understand that his friend can’t bathe every day?  That he didn’t do his homework because his parents didn’t make him sit down at the kitchen table just like he did and do it – because his parents weren’t home. Or because he doesn’t have a kitchen table – he has the backseat of a car?

There are choices.  And there are voices. Some people make them. And some have no one to speak for them. 

I don’t know how to speak for them, because as much as I can nod my head, smile sadly and say I understand – I don’t.  I can’t.  I can try. But it’s not the same. And I can’t pass it down to my kids because they don’t know.  

Voices. The thought of unheard voices is weighing very heavily on me today. 


About Michelle Barton

Things I find myself asking or saying in everyday life.
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