Hello friends..sorry it's been a while!
I haven't been around much -mainly because life is busy, but also because there are so many negative stories swirling around the internet that you can get sucked in to a hurricane of negativity so easy it'll make your head spin. I try to avoid the internet when I start feeling bombarded with the ugly.
Lately, I've been reading some pretty awful stuff in my news feed - so much of it is about kids and bullying and how rotten they are. I hate bullying with every fiber of my being. I do. But instead of going on a rant about mean people - I'm going to tell you a story about one of my causes that I volunteer for in hopes that I can tell a feel good story, instead.
The idea came from the school Nurse that I work with at the middle school. We had been getting so many clothing donations that the Care Closet was getting a little cramped in the supply closet. Her idea was to have a 'New to You' type of clothing swap. She asked that any student who wanted to participate bring up to 5 items of gently used clothing - in exchange for 5 tickets. If they didn't have anything to bring, that's okay too - the clothes at the swap could be purchased for 25 cents each. (If they didn't have 25 cents, we would have an envelope of 5 tix for them anyways). We also advertised on the school website and the local paper and got even more bags of clothes from the community.
We arranged the tables and tables and TABLES of clothing by size and gender. We hung dresses and tops from a few rolling racks we had. The gymnasium was converted into a temporary shop, complete with the locker rooms as dressing rooms and the corner was even a shoe shop with benches! I couldn't believe the clothes that were there - the colors - the sizes - the selection!
When it finally came to be 2:30 there was a line outside the gymnasium door. Everyone in the school was invited to shop the swap. The only way I can describe what happened next was if you remember years ago when Filene's Basement used to have their big wedding gown sale and the 'running of the brides' and their bridesmaids to try on anything and everything they possibly could as soon as the doors opened. The only difference is, there was no stampede to hurt each other or grab - the giggles were all you could hear throughout the entire school.
The girls were giddy as they searched for treasures in the tables marked by their size. I worked the checkout counter where they would come and plop down their 5 items ranging from Aeropostale hoodies, to Hollister tshirts, to Gap shorts and Express sundresses. It was unreal. The boys found Nike shorts, UnderArmour cleats, football jerseys, and even ties for semi-formal! Regardless of the name brand or no name brand, these kids found what made their heart happy, and were beaming with pride when they checked out.
I could hardly keep up with bagging their stuff but I was fueled by the energy that filled the room. Most of the students never knew what it was like to feel the power of shopping with their own 'money' and picking out whatever they wanted. Those 5 items (and sometimes kids picked out more than 5!) were their treasures and they were bursting with excitement when they left.
The best parts of the day were seeing how the kids shared and helped others. In several instances, some only chose 3 or 4 items and gave their extra ticket(s) to someone else who needed them. In other instances, I just happened to 'find' a quarter or a ticket to help someone who I knew needed a little help. It was like playing Santa. We gave extras the entire afternoon and anyone and everyone who wanted or needed went home with a bagful. At the end of the swap, one of the kids brought his mom and she asked if she could buy some things. We still had so much left that she bought a huge box full of clothes to send back to her village in the Dominican Republic, where her family there would be able to distribute the clothes to even more kids in need. She was so happy to be able to do that for them at a price she could afford.
Seeing the kids lift each other up and tell each other how great things looked on them and how excited they were to find stuff was so rewarding. They smiled and laughed and even helped others find their sizes and what they might like. There were hugs and high fives and some even danced together to the music we had playing in the background.
There are so many really good kids out there that really do make their school a better place. It's easy to forget when we are constantly reading about the bad stuff. If we can let them experience how good it feels to help their peers, they will become addicted to the joy it brings. That's the hope, anyway.
Cheers, love and smiles,