On Friday, I met with my fourth and fifth grade reading group. All of the kids in this group read about two years below grade level (whatever that means!). I'm reading aloud one of my favorite new read alouds, HOW TO STEAL A DOG. I chose this book for lots of reasons--
1) I love it and couldn't wait to share it with kids
2) Georgina, the main character, has a life very similar to many of my students
3) It focuses on tough issues and could promote lots of great conversations.
We definitely had one of those conversations on Friday. We're about a third of the way through the book, and as I finish the chapter, D'Anthony, one of my fourth graders, says, "So they're not that poor?"
I'm surprised at this comment. I would say that Georgina and her family, homeless and living in their car, are very poor, but if I've learned anything in my 25 years of teaching, I've learned that there is usually logic, and often wisdom, behind kids' comments.
"What do you mean, D'Anthony?" I query.
"Well, they are kind of poor," says D'Anthony, "because they have to live in their car. They are not that poor, though, because they can buy coffee and M and M's."
I'm still surprised. I ask the other kids what they think, is Georgina's family "totally poor" or just "kinda poor."
Rodolfo thinks they are kinda poor. "If they were totally poor," he says, "they would not even have a car."
Jackie, oldest of five kids, also thinks the family is only kinda poor, "Because they don't have to live outside, and because they have food to eat."
Darlene and Tyree concur with the other members of their group.
I am blown away. How can a family living in their car be only "kinda poor?"
I suspect these kids have known days of "totally poor" and I am struck dumb by the lack of gratefulness at the abundance in my own life. I hope that the next month when things are tight, I remember that it's all a matter of perspective. Even in those times when I feel kinda poor, I still have a roof over my head, food, clothes to wear, and a car to drive. I can still buy M and M's and an occasional cup of coffee, not to mention a million other material blessings.
Actually I am very, very rich. It's all a matter of perspective.