Poverty, Mama Bears, and the Light Under the Bushel

I set the alarm on my computer so I wouldn’t forget. My favorite mom of my favorite student mans the front desk on the last Wednesday of the month. When I got there, it became obvious that I was not the only one excited to see Bridget Brock in the building.

She comes in with a smile, a huge batch of homemade cookies, the largest bag of Jolly Ranchers she could find, a sweet tea for her daughter and a boy she needs to talk to, a desire to know every kid’s name. She stands at the desk and hands out her cookies to the students she already knows by name. There are many. More than I know maybe, and we have been in the school for the same amount of years.

Her daughter, Victoria, was in my tenth grade english class when I was hugely pregnant with Priscilla and still confused about the fact that I was teaching in the suburbs. My very first year teaching at that school was Victoria’s first year in public school. She felt in her fifteen year old heart, the Lord calling her to the huge school down the road, her parents decided to trust her. They have never looked back, since placing both her younger brothers in the larger schools that they once feared. They now love those places fiercely. Call many more kids their own.

My school is better for the presence of Bridget Brock. She lures the kids she does not know into her genuine smile with the hard candy. She learns their name. She tells them she hopes they do well in school. She means it. She brings a sweet tea for the good boy who made some bad choices and lets him know that his parents may not care, but she does. She believes in him.

This is not a love that melts like hard candy, that sweet tea is handed out with the understanding that this means she has a say in your life. This is the love of a mama bear. It is loud, it barks, it will not be ignored. She believes in people. Sees most of the students in the hallway through the mama lens she sees her own children through, not-perfect but deeply loved, worth every ounce of fight she’s got.

I’ve worked too long in some too dark places to believe that she will change every child she runs into on the last Wednesday of every month. But I have worked too long in some too dark places, that were dying for the light she gives off. Even if it is dark again when she leaves.  I wonder what it would mean to some of these kids if just one mama-bear was fighting for them.

I heard recently of a mom who found out her child was a drug addict and the same day she found out there was a two week waiting period for re-hab. She applied for emergency family leave at her job and became her son’s shadow. He was lying on the bed watching tv, she was lying on the bed watching tv. He went to go get something to eat, she went to go get something to eat. He went to the bathroom, she waited in the hall. Every moment for two weeks, she fought for him, even when he hated her for it.

I know that poverty is a huge problem. I know that it is complicated, and far further reaching than I understand. But I also know that it is dark in some places that are right next to the ones we are in. That the church is so often the light under the bushel, to our own communities, to the christian schools, to each other. When are we going to push the light into the darkness? When will it be time to also fight for the children of our neighbors?

We gave away our cribs today. I don’t know that we are done having babies, but I know that someone else really needed them, a pair of teenager sisters who are both choosing life. My husband and I talked about it, and decided they needed them more, and we have the means to find a crib on Craigslist when we need it.

It isn’t just the money, when it comes to being impoverished. It is that the people around you have nothing to share either. No truck to borrow, no extra diapers, no extra time. Everyone is stuck in the same place. That has been the most surprising things about teaching in the suburbs. The veritable mom with time army can work some near miracles, keep it cleaner, safer, warmer, just plain better than it would be without them.

I watch Bridget Brock as she loves on some kids. Even if it is only repeating their own name back to them, in a tone that tells them she is glad they are here. I watch as she tells them to take a few hard candies for the road, come back next time for a cookie. I watch her love well, and dream of an army of people who love well, wanting to bring light into darkness. I watch her fight for children that are not technically her own. I wonder where the rest of the mama bears are.  I dream of their light unleashed at my school.

7 thoughts on “Poverty, Mama Bears, and the Light Under the Bushel

  1. Mama bears are coaches and counselors, youth leaders and band moms and dads, scout leaders, and brave Christian kids like Victoria. Go bears!

  2. Every school needs somebody like that. Heck, every teacher needs somebody like that in their own classroom. I do think a person could do those same things for the same reasons, Christian or not.
    Those north county schools have such a huge advantage in having parents with time to volunteer, time to go to PTA (because they aren’t working several jobs) and little money to kick in.

  3. Abby!! This is just sensational writing right here. Thank you for this picture of love in action. And thank God for the Bridgets of the world – may her tribe increase . . . and increase. . . and increase. Loved the heck out of this one, friend.

  4. Abby,
    May more choose to be like her… may more choose to reach out and touch a life again and again. May I reach out and touch souls as well with grace and kindness.

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