For as long as I can remember I have loved grocery shopping. Several times a week I stop by the store to pick up milk or eggs or bread…but by the time I leave my cart is loaded down with groceries.
I take my cart full of bags, load them in the trunk, and make the trek home. When I get home the journey/battle truly begins. My goal as a guy is to get every bag from the trunk of the car into the house…in one trip. Unlocking the door ahead of time is cheating and anything that falls out of the bag wasn’t meant to make it into the house.
So I struggle. I fight and push to balance all of the baggage weighing me down, catching on the doorframe and holding me back. I know I could make multiple trips. I know I could put some of the bags down. But I don’t.
Tomorrow I will start my 7th year of teaching middle school students, and the most important thing I’ve learned in that short time period is that kids come to school weighed down with their own baggage, overflowing and dragging them down. Unlike my stubborn attempt to display my manly bag carrying abilities, these kids don’t carry their baggage willingly. A lot of times they don’t carry it visibly. They hide their problems and stresses, but their problems are still there.
Some of them walk through those doors every day weighed down by homelessness, abusive parents, siblings in prison, wondering if they will get to eat dinner when they get home, wondering if they will have to feed their five siblings while their single mom works three jobs to make ends meet.
Some of them walk through those doors with the stresses of parents going through divorce, or the strain of living two lives at two different homes. They go home to grandparents because parents are in jail.
Some of them go home to loving families, but carry the baggage of online bullying or societal pressures to be something other than who they are.
How can I expect them to focus on plot elements in a novel when they are weighed down by the stress of being good enough for their parents? How can I expect them to focus on sentence structure when they are more worried about the kid who is going to beat them up on the way home?
I’m not writing this as a woe is me post. I’m writing this to encourage you to be the one who helps carry the burdens of the young people who enter your life. If you are a teacher or coach or mentor, bear the burden of those you work with. Give their little arms a break. They need someone to stand up for them and for a few hours not worry or care about the baggage waiting for them after school.
School should be their safe-haven where they can drop off their struggles, their worries and their stress for a few hours, a place where they know they are welcomed with open arms.
To those parents, teachers, coaches, or any other adults out there who rise to the occasion each day and help uplift their children, who lighten their load, thank you!