Well, shit

“Tara” is one of my third graders–a very sweet, hard working, responsible, sensitive, and caring little girl. She’s already wiggled into my heart–she draws me sweet pictures saying how much she loves me as a teacher, loves to help students with their work when she finishes hers, and gives me hugs all the time. Academically, she may not get her work right the first time–but will correct an F paper into an A paper every single time. She is a truly diligent worker.

Sunday, her house burned to the ground. Her family–a low-income, non-English speaking immigrant family–lost everything but the clothes on their back…everything. Fortunately, they weren’t home when this electrical fire started, so everyone is alright–at least, physically. But they’re now without a home, a bed, food, books, toys…the mother called in sobbing yesterday(the kids didn’t go to school), and kept saying, “My children don’t have socks…I don’t have socks for my children…”

There are 5 in the family–Tara, her parents, her bigger brother Carlos (who is 13), and her little brother David (age 5). David hasn’t been able to sleep these last few nights–his beloved blankie was burned in the fire, and he is inconsolable without it.

Tara came to school today. I was stunned to see her, frankly. Her face was red and puffy, and far more emotionally weary than is meant for a young child. She gladly accepted my welcome hug, and the little gifts I’d set aside for her (some crayons, markers, a notepad, a book, a lunchbag) to take home. Once in the classroom, she started crying right after the Pledge of Allegiance. It broke my heart. Absolutely ripped it in half. I had to look away, or else I was going to start crying with her.

Lauren (and I do hope you know I’ve changed all names), another student, had brought Tara a new white teddy bear with a gold locket around its neck. Tara was cheered by it and carried him everywhere this morning–I couldn’t have been more proud of Lauren for her generosity and kindness in friendship. Lauren was a true encourager today–helping Tara finish work, playing with her at recess, showing her how to work some of the toys she’d brought from home to give to her friend.

By recess, Tara was laughing and playing tetherball. She finished all of her classwork today, and never cried after her difficult morning. By afternoon, she was very drained, but still completed all of her work. The routine of school is very good for her, apparently–it takes her mind off of the disaster that is at “home.” (Her family is staying with relatives right now.)

Well, crud, now I’m crying. This isn’t fair, gang. Big surprise; it is life, isn’t it?

But it isn’t fair, dammit.

Well…I wish I knew what to say. My heart goes out to that girl and her family. I’m sure she does need some routine, now that everything she knows has been completely taken from her. And I know that you will be a great big strong rock for her to cling to. Hug her for me, okay?

Lauren’s example got me to thinking: would it be appropriate for you to organize a mini-Goodwill for the Tara family? I don’t know how far a teacher can go in directing attention at a particular student without turning that student into a teacher’s pet. But if there is some latitude, I wonder if you could just mention that Tara’s house burned down, and isn’t that terrible, and if you have any old clothes, etc. you’d like to bring to class I’m sure Tara’s family would be very happy?

There must be somebody whose little sibling just outgrew his/her security blanket, and maybe some parents who want to get rid of the family’s old clothes. I hope it would take the edge off of the pain of losing your home.

Anyway, your story got me kind of choked up too. Tara reminds me of how my sister was in 4th grade - always making little bits of art for her beloved teacher.

::Wiping away tears::

So, to whom might I make out a check and to where would I send it?

Veni, Vidi, Visa … I came, I saw, I bought.

Actually, I already have. When my principal told me what had happened, I asked her if I should share the information with the students. She encouraged it; third graders are of such an age that they can begin to both appreciate the seriousness of the situation as well as brainstorm ways they can help. (David’s kindergarten teacher did not share with her class because they lack that kind of maturity, and it would probably cause more problems than solve.)

It is very important for me and my classroom that we build a sense of community, and so I shared yesterday what had happened, and then the entire class brainstormed ways we could help Tara. The students were very eager to generate ideas, and seemed excited to be an actual part of helping solve such a large, “adult” problem. Even “Max,” my obnoxious, spoiled little mood swing, said he wanted to go buy Tara a costume for Halloween, or maybe give her his old backpack.

So, we are taking up a collection of clothes, books, etc. in our classroom (being discreet with it). David’s teacher is buying him a new blankie, and I’m going to see if I can replace Tara’s glasses.

It is fascinating to see just how mature and generous a group of 8 year olds (that may have just been squabbling over a pencil) can be.

Laura, I think I live maybe twenty minutes west of you. I’ve got three bags of boys’ clothes sitting here that my kids have outgrown, in sizes around 8, 10, and maybe some small 12s. I’ve also got a bunch of stuff in the garage I’ve been meaning to get rid of, including a set of bunk beds and toys my kids have outgrown. And I have a van to move stuff with! Send me an email if you think any of this would be useful, and maybe we can work it out to bring it out your way this weekend?


Well, this sure puts into perspective the hardships I’ve dealt with recently…

Yer pal,

When I was 6, the same thing happened to me. Our house burnt to the ground and we lost everything. We were inside the house when it started, in the middle of the night, so if it wasn’t for the door that led outside from my parent’s bedroom, we wouldn’t be around today.

But we all survived, and things were fine. Unlike LauraRae’s tale, we weren’t financially so tight at the time, and the house was insured.

But losing everything you’ve ever known, instantly, and through natural occurences, is an unbelievable experience. Just as here, friends and family, and even strangers, rallied around, donated clothes and toys and lots of other stuff you don’t even realise you suddenly don’t have any more, and things worked out well. It restores faith in your fellow human being to be a part of that.

My empathy goes out to that family, LauraRae. I know just what it’s like.

“Waheeey! ‘Duck!’ Get it?”
“Errr… No…”
“Duck! Sounds almost exactly like fu-”

That poor family, and that poor little girl! Is there any way those of us farther away can be of any practical help? Is there a fund set up?

And good for Lauren; what a doll!


LauraRae, you are a sweetheart and a half.

Can you please drop me an e-mail (suzette100@yahoo.com) with an address where I can send some money or items? I would love to do so- since you may be worried about posting a home address here or sending it around, perhaps the school address? Thanks. I think some good will through the internet might just make that family feel loved and give them hope, which is just what they need (in addition to money)

Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.

Satan…It really does, for me too…

Laura you are a good teacher, keep up your support, she will never forget you.

Made me cry too.

Damn, that’s a rough tale. It’s a wonderful thing you’re doing for that little girl, LauraRae. I don’t mean to put anything more upon you, but: what about the rest of the family?

The efforts seem to have been focused on the child in your class – as they should be, since that’s who all the other students know. But are the relatives able to provide enough help to the other people?

I’m not suggesting you become a one-woman charity organization. I just hope your kids are bringing in stuff the rest of the family can use also.

Good luck with all your efforts. And let the kid know she has my sympathy – she’s a hard worker, and a family’s troubles aren’t supposed to worsen when they start a new life in the USA.

–Da Cap’n

Don’t forget 211, United Way’s new telephone number. They can quickly set the family up with clothing, basic needs, and support services.

Tell “Tara” that people all over the world are pulling for her.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Thank all of you so much for the friendly, supportive Emails and posts! I’ll have to tell Tara about all of you. She’ll be blown away!

Tara came to school today wearing brand-new Winnie the Pooh overalls, with a matching new backpack. She was much more stable, and actually seemed a bit more excited than scared about the new changes in her life. She grew rather depressed and weary after lunch, as she did yesterday; her focus wasn’t too keen on work and she was a bit quieter (not that that’s saying much–she isn’t exactly talkative to begin with). It’s still pretty much still observe her and see her emotional patterns.

I spoke with the home liason about getting her glasses; our nurse will check Tara on Friday and then hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the ball from there.

David (the kinder brother) got a new blankie from his teacher today. She had very carefully picked it out, trying to make it as close in color, size, pattern, and fabric as in his original. She told me that the look on his face when he got it was priceless–his eyes widened to previously unknown proportions, and he literally trembled in excitement. I would’ve paid anything to see that! :smiley:

Cap’n Crude, absolutely the rest of the family must not be forgotten. Actually, it’s the parents who are likely to be neglected in all of this. I sent home some McDonald’s gift certificates with Tara for her family today; it’s good for them to have things the whole family can enjoy.

I do have size information:
<center>Father: 36 pants Large shirt
Mother: 13-14 pants Large/1X shirt
Carlos: 12 pants 14-16 shirt
Tara: 10 pants 10-12 shirt
David: 6 pants 6-8 shirt</center>

And y’know Zette, I was just thinking that sending donations to the school would be the best idea. Great minds, eh? BTW, after discussing things with the liason, we think that gift certificates to Target may be a terrific idea–the store is just a few miles from school, and they’ll be able to buy clothes, shoes, toys, tools, and all variety of housewares/linens/etc. there. Plus it’s easy to ship. :slight_smile: Of course, any other donations are great, too! (Furniture should probably wait until they have a house to put it on–quarters are a little cramped right now.)

Anyway, if any of you would like the address, Email me and I’ll send it to you (I’m not quite comfortable posting the address on the web, hope you understand). And I’ll go ahead and send it on to all of you who’ve already requested info.

Thank you, thank you, thank you–you are all truly an AMAZING bunch of people!

“My cat’s breath smells like cat food.” --Ralph Wiggum, hero and icon

BTW, I just wanted to add that I didn’t come here at all to ask for help or request contributions–it was just to vent. Your generosity (and I don’t really mean material goods/money–I mean generosity in support, encouragement, sympathy) was not what I was expecting. It’s wonderful when people surprise you with their kindness. :slight_smile:

You know, every once in a while I hear stories like this in church. (Why an atheist is attending a church isn’t appropriate to the current thread. Ask me again somewhere more cheerful.) It’s heartbreaking to hear about it when it happens.

Our congregation works closely with a local organization called “Helping Hands”. They take good quality used clothes, appliances, and toys; fix up any problems they have; and donate them to needy families. I may be suggesting the obvious, but if Tara’s family, or someone associated with them, checks around they could probably find some group like this.

Of course, getting someone else’s stuff (or even new stuff) is not a very good replacement for stuff that one has a personal history with. I know I would realy miss a lot of the crap in my apartment.

The only positive thing I can think of about this is that young children tend to be pretty emotionally resilient. If the family can get back into a normal routine quickly enough, there shouldn’t be any long-lasting effects.