This I Believe

Susan - ST. PETERSBURG, Florida
Entered on March 13, 2007

I believe that healthy children in loving, prosperous families get what they need at home. The others—the unfortunate ones—need our help.

Meera rushed to the small reading table when I arrived at her first-grade classroom. “I practiced!” she grinned.

“Let’s see,” I challenged.

As I held up the first card, she nervously clutched the ripped sleeve of her “Daddy’s Princess” t-shirt.




“Wow!” I grinned at her.


“Does that make sense?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Do-do-down!”

“You are amazing!”

She scooted her chair next to mine and snuggled.

Sometimes Meera tells me things while she snuggles. Daddy left in the middle of the night after he and Mama were yelling. She couldn’t sleep, so she heard. Sometimes Daddy comes back with presents. He and Mama like to drive all the way from St. Petersburg to Oldsmar where the horses run in races. She’s got three sisters and four brothers, some with different daddies. At night she stays with her Aunty, and then when Mama gets home from work at midnight, Meera has to wake up to go home. That’s why she’s tired a lot. Lunch at school is her dinner, and Mama doesn’t have to pay for it.

After my day job as an elementary school reading teacher, I tutor kids to help make ends meet. Some of my students attend private school. Like Meera, Randolph is in first grade.

Randy reads his homework directions silently. “I have to fill in the blanks,” he announces. “Let’s see. I like to play _______. Outdoors. I like to play outdoors.” He neatly prints his answer, yawns, and asks, “How long until snack time?”

“Five minutes,” I tell him. “Did you notice that the directions for the next question say your answer has to start with an s?”

He nods. “Tonight I will eat _______. Snakes! Tonight I will eat snakes!” He starts to write.

“Randy, do you remember that your teacher said your answers have to be realistic?”

“I’d eat a snake if I could!” Dropping his pencil, he folds his arms and glares.

“Well, I’d hate to delay your snack.”

“Okay, okay.” He rolls his eyes. “Sherbet. Tonight I will eat sherbet.”

I had to smile. “What’s your favorite kind of sherbet, Randy?”

“Orange.” He grins.

His grin reminds me of Meera’s. “Do you have sherbet a lot?” I ask.

He nods. “Every night. My mom says it clears the palate.”

Before I became an elementary school teacher, I held many jobs—bakery clerk, bank teller, proofreader, real estate lawyer, chief operations officer. I’ve learned many things in my 53 years, but no truth as great as this. Healthy children in loving prosperous families get what they need at home. The others—the unfortunate ones—need our help.