I’m warning you up front: I write this today as a proud father. No, I won’t share wallet photos or pictures on my phone. (If I knew how to take them. Did you know cell phones have cameras?) But I do want to at least share a story.
First, you must know, there has never been any recognition I have ever received that can even come close to how I feel when I hear a compliment about any of my three children. I am truly blessed with how they have become such caring adults. I don’t know if I would change anything about them, other than our family cell phone plan they somehow remain on. (I can close my eyes and see other parents smiling at the phenomenon, too.)
The legendary Mr. Rogers said: “We live in a world where we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” I am privileged to see heroes every day who share their generosity in such meaningful ways.
There are others who give in a different way, in their time and talent as volunteers. Then there are others who take steps that sometimes I don’t understand, and upend their lives to help in ways that are even more profound. They live out Mr. Rogers’ heroism, and say by their words and actions, “that is my child, too.”
My youngest daughter teaches sixth grade at an area school. She was born to teach. When she was four, she lined up Beanie Babies in front of her Fisher-Price blackboard to give them their assignments. (She practiced strong classroom management skills even then — I saw her put a hippo out in the hall who was misbehaving.)
She has had students in her class over the past seven years whose circumstances have broken her heart, and she supported them as a teacher as best she knew how, and tried her best to love them through the travails of sixth grade.
This year was different. She had a foster student in her class whom she talked about from the first day. Not long into the semester, the student told her that his foster family was giving him up, and he might be moving yet again. In a matter-of-fact tone, he told her of a certain book he wanted at the upcoming book fair “if I’m still here.” Eleven-year-olds shouldn’t have to wonder that.
A week later, she came to talk to us about fostering the student. She acknowledged the impact it would have on her and her social life as a 20-something single adult. She knew the responsibility and commitment, and said, “Yes, this is my child, too.” He has been settling into his new world for the past few weeks, and into ours as well.
Mr. Rogers is right … she, and so many like her, know the challenges, responsibilities and consequences. Yet they step up and still say “yes.”
When we see it as “our community,” we are willing to commit not just public resources, but private, philanthropic ones as well. Ultimately, though, it is those who take that final step to make it come together. They are my heroes, too, even if I pay their cell phone bill.
Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.