I've spent the past week reading through over 160 emails of people in need this holiday season.
I've cried more tears than I thought possible reading these heartbreaking stories.
Aly, Holly & I may have gotten in over our heads on this one, as it's just not possible to share all 160+ stories. Although we wish we could!
But for the next 12 days (or more, who knows) we'll each be featuring a few stories on our blogs and be asking for YOUR help. Asking you to pay it forward. To share their stories on YOUR blog, with YOUR Facebook friends, etc. We want to help these families not suffer this Christmas. Please, if something you read pulls at your heart strings, like they did ours, email us at MLHolidayPayItForward (at) yahoo and we will get you in touch with the right person and let you know how you can help!
Also, there will be SEVERAL stories shared, so make sure to check Aly & Holly's blog daily as well!
When emailing us, in the Subject line put our name (Holly, Aly or Mama -whoever featured the story on their blog) and the name of the story you want to help.
All stories will be named- some names might be changed for anonymity.
But this will help us sort through the emails and better help. THANK YOU!
Here is the first story:
Inner City Kids
"I have said it before and will say it again, I have the best job in the world. I am the proud teacher of 22 six and seven year old's at an inner city school. Our school is a title one school, which means a certain percentage of the student population qualifies for free and reduced lunch. 21 of my 22 students qualify for free and reduced lunch, living well underneath the poverty level. As I am teaching them to read, write, and add and subtract, they are teaching me how to love in a way that I didn't know existed. I am 25 with no children, so to me, they are my babies.
However, I wish that this ongoing story was easy. Everyday, all of my kids come to school in their embroidered shirts and pants that they must buy; black shoes and a belt. They enter my room, ready to learn. As their minds are full of eagerness, and their hearts are filled with love, the haunting sounds of some of their stomachs growling takes over. As I was teaching a lesson one day, I looked around the room and six of my kids had their heads down with their arms wrapped around their belly's. At first, maybe out of instinct, I wanted to approach them and discipline them for not paying attention. But then I started to think...
Did they eat breakfast in the cafeteria?
Did I remember to hand out snack yesterday?
How many hours has it been since lunch yesterday?
And in that moment that seemed to last 10 minutes, I found myself staring at the whiteboard with my back to the class trying to make my tears disappear.
Until you've looked into the eyes of a child who is hungry, and you don't have a stove to cook on, you'll grab anything to feed them. During my lunch that day I ran to the closest CVS and grabbed as many snack foods as I could and pretty much made them eat for the rest of the day. And since that day, I've made sure to have a HUGE snack at the end of the day.
As if hunger wasn't already a huge issue, there's the clothing issue. Holes in their shoes; wearing belts that could fit me; shirts in a size 4T; pants without buttons...it's a hard sight to see. No matter what is going on in my life, who cut me off on my way to work, the lack of sleep I received...nothing compares to what they go through. Yet everyday, they enter my room with the biggest smile on their faces and the tightest hug you've received and tell me good morning, and sometimes an "I love you". And in that specific moment, it's with God's grace that you forget about all the sadness and hug them back, making sure they hear me say "I love you more!"
I know that I am doing nothing out of the ordinary. Millions of teachers just like me have to endure this pain everyday. If I could buy them all clothes and feed them three meals a day, I would. But unfortunately, I can't. I'm hoping that with everything they go through, this submittal will help see them to a Christmas they'll never forget. As far as their needs and wants, they're very different. They "need" clothes, shoes, underwear, socks, etc. They "want" the latest toys, games, and everything else kids at their age want.
I understand this is a large request. Maybe too big to complete. I'm sure that you are reading thousands of stories that are just as deserving as mine. I just want to be able to give these kids something they'll never forget. I want to see the look in their eyes that all parents talk about when their kids open presents. I want to see 22 of those eyes."
As I read that email with tears flooding my eyes I immediately knew I HAD to help those kids.
I wondered how I would do it. How I could POSSIBLY ask for help for 22 kids.
I bookmarked the email and it was on the back of my mind for a few days.
And then a miracle happened.
I got an email from a lady in Knoxville, TN. who is the director of an after school program stating her, her coworkers and her kids' 96 families wanted to help a story in need.
Chills ran through my body and tears filled my eyes as I thought of the Florida kids.
I immediately forwarded her the above email and asked if she wanted to take care of those kids.
There will be 22 kids who will not go hungry this Christmas.
There will be 22 kids who will have school uniforms that FIT them this Christmas.
And there will be 22 smiling 6 and 7 year olds this Christmas.
THAT'S what this Pay it Forward movement is about.
THAT'S how you can help.
THAT'S what it feels like to be a part of something BIG.
I'm not asking for your help today. The Florida kids have already got lots of love and help coming their way.
I'm sharing this story with you today to let you know THIS is the kind of thing we want to see happen with the Pay it Forward movement.
Please join Aly, Holly & I over the next 12 (or more) days as we ask for your help and urge you to help us Pay it Forward.
Share in any way you can.
We want show these people love, let them know they are cared about, and hopefully give them a Christmas to remember.
Aly & Holly have stories up today asking for some help... hop on over and see if one of those stories you'd like to help, or just send a prayer out to. Whatever you can do to help is greatly appreciated!
I'll be sharing another story tomorrow, this one will need your help! So please check back!
Thank you all ahead of time for being a part of something so big!