The tires rumble under my feet as the bus meanders down the road. It is field trip day, a day that rivals Christmas and Halloween in the eyes of small children. “Is it today? Is it today?” they have asked ever since the permission slips were passed out.
It is today.
We travel from the city to the suburbs. Our destination is a farm, a hands-on experience to supplement what we are learning about in the classroom. Children alternately talk and act silly with their seatmate and point out the window at something exciting. It could be another car, an interesting building, anything. We have parents on the bus too, our chaperones. A year ago some of these parents and their children were fighting for their lives in other parts of the world. Now they are here.
The parents are also looking out the windows. The further we drive, the nicer the view gets. The shops get further back from the street with better landscaping and signage. Then we turn off and drive through a series of neighborhoods. The houses get progressively nicer too. Bigger with more land between houses. Houses that I know I could never afford on my salary, and to be honest I probably make two to three times what these parents are earning. Now we’re all staring out the windows at how the other half lives.
(A few minutes away from our destination we pass the neighborhood school. I briefly wonder what it’s like on the inside, how many supplies they get, what their parental involvement and socioeconomic status are like, and then I push it out of my mind. Mostly.)
The holidays are coming, the air is getting cooler, and a lot of the kids at my school are unprepared. We have after-school events for the whole family. At some schools you would have a cake walk or a silent auction and parents could acquire things that way, if they chose. At my school we collect donations from churches and nonprofits and a school in the (wealthy) next town over. We pass out blankets and food and presents. Clothes for all ages, shoes, sheets. Some mattresses and furniture are donated. Everything goes home with someone.
When I get home I look around at how much I have.
I am not even in the building on this day, and yet I am still in communication with the school.
I am sitting in a waiting room of a doctor’s appointment. As the morning program blares on the television and people engage in conversation around me, I am texting the guidance counselor to make sure food will be sent home that day with one of my kids. We’ve been sending home food more days than not. Definitely on Friday and as many weekdays as possible. It’s a heart-wrenching story that happens all too often.
I’ve started donating money to our food bank. I can’t get her face out of my mind.
I am searching for a specific title and drive across town to a different branch of the public library.
It is stunning.
There is a fountain outside. The building is all marble and mahogany and words I don’t know. There are dozens of computers to use and a gorgeous children’s area and even a place for the older kids to go.
And there are books. And books. And books.
I could live in this library.
It is worlds away from the library that I go. That my students go to (if they have the transportation to get there).
They’re funded through the same tax dollars, just like the schools are. Yet the wealthy always wind up with the pristine buildings and the overflowing resources.
It’s how the other half lives.