Last week, I couldn't make my shift at the preschool. Today when I came in, we had only six kids — by midday the number had risen to eight, well below our usual double-digit classoom size.
The lower numbers aren't just due to summer. If parents could have their kids inside with air conditioning today, they would. A number of families have been moving out this week. We can expect a new influx of kids next week.
One of the families that moved was A's, a girl who has been at the shelter almost as long as I've been volunteering (more than two years). Her mother got married while she was living here, and because she was on supportive housing,* I'm told, their stay could have been indefinite.
A's last day was last Thursday, the day I called in lazy.
Today, K told me he was moving. I wrote about his troubles with school a few weeks ago. This was his family's last day in the shelter. I don't know where A and K are going. I don't ask, because this allows me to think the best as well as hope for it.
Once these kids are gone, hoping is about all I can do — beyond writing about them here.
K has made progress. Today, he was frustrated because he was raising his hand to be called on after the teacher read a story about a mother getting a birthday garden, and the teacher was calling on other kids. It's hard for these kids to sit still and wait in class, because outside, such behavior isn't rewarded very often. If you snooze, you lose. If you wait your turn, you get burned.
The question was: "What do you do special for your mom on her birthday?"
The answers were derivative of the story just read or drawn from birthday convention: Cake, flowers, ice cream.
He squirmed and expressed to me his conviction he'd never get a turn. But he waited, stayed in his spot and raised his hand again and again.
When K's turn finally came, he said, "Give her strawberries."
We have legislators and a governor who may be working to avert a state shutdown as I write this. They are dealing and compromising to arrive at a budget number satisfactory to both parties. I wish them the best.
But there is no way this budget struggle and the debate over taxes and spending for education and social services will come within a million miles of these kids.
Upon what spreadsheet will A and K appear? What standardized test would give the top score to "strawberries"?
* "Permanent rental housing affordable to the population served where support services are available to residents. Permanent supportive housing is available to individuals and families with multiple barriers to obtaining and maintaining housing, including those who are formally homeless or at risk of homelessness and those with mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and/or HIV/AIDS."