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Back to school reminder

Brandon’s story is a touching back-to-school reminder of our responsibility

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When I was in third grade, a fellow classmate came to class dressed in a tank top, shorts, and the same dirty tennis shoes he wore every day. The boy’s name was Brandon. He was very skinny, had dark circles under his eyes, very thin hair, and was on the lower end of the curve in class. I think about that day often. It was the dead middle of winter. I remember that I wore a purple, puffy coat, long jeans that I argued about wearing, and long sleeves. I walked from my mother’s minivan into the school doors. Brandon (I didn’t fully realize it then), stood outside waiting on his bus. He then rode a cold bus to school, and walked in the same doors as I had 20 minutes prior. All-the-while, he was wearing his power-rangers tank top and shorts.
Our teacher had him wrapped in a blanket and in front of her space heater that she was using to warm the room before Brandon arrived. She was in horror when he walked in. None of us understood why. Shortly after he got hot chocolate, he was called to the office. I remember Ms. Meading telling the class about how Brandon was very cold, that he would be getting special treatment, and none of us were to say anything about it. None of us were allowed to complain while he sipped hot chocolate. None of us were allowed to ask him, or our teacher, why he was able to drink hot chocolate or why he was called to the office.
As a third-grader, my curiosity was piqued. 
Though I never asked him or my teacher, I wondered all day why he got hot chocolate. After all, we were all cold, weren’t we? I don’t even remember if I asked my parents later as to why. I do remember that he came back from the office wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt, holding his previous clothes in a Walmart bag. We were all trying not to stare at him as he walked his bag to his locker. As an adult, I weep every time I remember this image.
Now that I’m a parent, I think about Brandon often. I wonder where he is. I wonder if he ever knew love. I wonder if his dark and veiny eyes ever brightened. I wonder if his thin frame ever “fluffed.” I wonder if he ever understood gratitude for our teacher caring for him that day and applied that encouragement to the rest of his life. I wonder what he remembers about me.
To parents that have children in school: please think of Brandon when you buy school supplies for your child’s class. Please think of him when you watch your child, properly dressed, walk into school. Please think of him when you hear about a child “acting out.” No, Brandon is not your direct responsibility. Yes, his parents “should have done better.” Yes, you have other things to pay and care for. But if you don’t care for him, who will? Will he continue riding a cold bus to school wearing only a power ranger tank top? Will his hair continue to be so thin, his eyes continue so dark, and his body continue to be so fragile, simply because someone didn’t intervene? If you won’t, who will—the teacher that’s over-worked, underpaid, and trying to make the rest of the class understand why they didn’t get hot chocolate?
I don’t know. Call me crazy. But we as adults have a responsibility. Caring for children, no matter whose children they are is all of our responsibility. Children do not understand why they cannot wear tank tops and shorts in the middle of winter. Children do not understand why only one classmate gets hot chocolate. Children do not understand why they have to share the $3 pair of scissors with Brandon just because he doesn’t have any. Adults, however, do. That’s why they are ALL our responsibility.
Just remember that. ❤️
-Sarah Tiller
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