Fresno's Kids

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Political activist and writer, Emma Goldman, once said "No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure." 

 

And while most would agree children are our most valuable resource, far too often we forget about them during our day to day life (especially those of us who don't have children). These traits – sympathy, kindness, and generosity – are not things often taught in school. For most kids, they are learned by watching and interacting with those around them. Even the simplest interaction can have an effect on a child. Whether you're the parent or next-door neighbor, even a smile or a hug can make things better. All it takes is a small recognition, the littlest thing that can do the trick.

In the central valley, and much of California, most of our revenue comes from the agriculture we grow here. The strawberries, tomatoes, almonds, grapes, and plenty of other fruits, nuts, and vegetables eaten all over the United States are cultivated here daily. Each specific one receives the things it needs to survive – the right amount of water, sunlight, pruning, picking when ripe. We spend so much time worrying about floods or droughts that could damage our precious crops and spend billions of dollars protecting them every year. In 2011 $43.5 billion dollars was spent on agricultural resources in California and $6.88 billion in Fresno County alone. At the same time our most precious resource – our children – are suffering. Over fifty percent of third graders in Fresno County cannot read at their grade level, making them four times more likely to drop out of school. So much time, energy, and money are spent taking care of our agriculture and yet the educational system is quietly decaying. Our public systems caring for the health and well being of our children are challenged and as a community, there is much to be done. Yet no one takes the initiative and stands in the gigantic gap we've created for the children in the central valley. We can't afford to lose another child to violence, the prison system, or lead them into a future of poverty. Addressing these issues will take all of us. But how?

Many people see these problems surrounding our systems and ignore them, thinking there is nothing they can do. This thought is absolutely and positively wrong. Standing in the gap doesn't have to mean dedicating your life to abandoned children. It doesn't have to mean adopting or fostering – while those are worthwhile and rewarding experiences. It doesn't have to mean giving money. Standing in the gap for a child can be as simple as a hug. It's talking to them, taking a few short minutes out of your day to say hello and invest some time. The average American spends about five hours a day on leisurely activities – socializing, networking, watching TV, getting coffee, etc. Imagine taking just a few minutes of your day to do something for a child. A niece or nephew that need help putting their bike together, consoling the neighbor's child whose dog died. Recently a local storyabout a garbage man, Frank Diaz, got national attention. Frank didn't do anything huge – he simply stepped out of his garbage truck one day and said hello to the little boy and his mother who had been waiting for him on his route every week. Little did he know that four year-old Greyson was autistic, and Frank's interaction with him had opened up an entirely new level of communication and awareness in the little boy. Greyson formed his first sentence after his encounter with the garbage man, and since then they have become good friends.

In Steve Pemberton's memoir he wrote of Mrs. Levin, a quiet neighbor lady who lived across the street. Mrs. Levin had noticed that Stevie, who was a foster child, had been reading the same book for almost a year and so the next day she brought a box full of new mysteries and history books for him. She didn't know what a cruel home Stevie lived in. She didn't know he was lonely, had no friends, and was afraid of the family he lived with. She only knew that he needed some new books and she made an effort. Mrs. Levin never knew that her kindness made such an impact in Stevie's life and that years later he would still remember her. But she made an effort; she stood in the gap for him and unknowingly gave him a much bigger gift: hope.

(See: "A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, A Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home" by Steve Pemberton).

As a college student, I don't know the best thing for a child. My years of babysitting are limited, and I don't know that I could adopt a child or become a social worker. In fact, it would probably break my heart. But what I can do is join the Children's Movement. I don't have to do anything; it's just my name on a piece of paper. It's that easy. My name, with a few thousand others, can be the difference between passing a bill or gaining funding for a new program in schools. My name alone can change a few; I can stand in the gap for the children in my life. But the Children's Movement and it's leaders are striving to build an army – crusaders for all kids in and around the central valley – who believe in their children and know what they can to do make things better. This movement of citizens believes that children should be THE priority in all of our decisions. It's not about the ability you have to help someone – life will always present opportunities – it's the willingness to be involved. For Frank Diaz, it was a decision to take the time to show one child on his route that he cared. For Mrs. Levin, it was encouraging a young boy to read and making sure he had the means to do so. For you, joining this movement can be a start. The organizers of the Children's Movement love and are committed to helping the children of the central valley and I am ready to stand with them to ensure the future of every child in our schools. Are you?

Take a minute today to join at www.tcmfresno.org and tell a friend.

Special thanks to Ryan Jacobsen at the Fresno County Farm Bureau for his much appreciated insight.

Sarah Mugridge
Student, University of California Santa Cruz

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