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About 3 years ago, my school participated in a pilot program for AISD.  I was one of 10 teachers to help pilot this program, called A Legacy of Giving (ALOG).  ALOG is a non-profit organization started by Linda Brucker after watching her son give back to the community for part of a school assignment.  The assignment that the kindergarten teacher gave her students was to observe the homeless in our community, find out what they need, and then act on that.

ALOG’s primary purpose is to expose and educate young children about philanthropy so they will grow up giving back to their communities.  Sounds great, right?  To be completely honest (and expose just how selfish I am), I was NOT excited about being part of this pilot program.  Like many programs that get thrown at teachers, this program required us to attend trainings, integrate yet more curriculum, and organize comminity service projects for our school-in other words, more work.  In the three years I taught this program, my effort was probably half-hearted.  Sure, there were things that I liked about what we did, but I wouldn’t have felt bad if the district cut the program.

The last training I went to was in May.  At this training, Linda Brucker told us the story of why she started ALOG and described the project that her kindergarten son was assigned several years ago.  Through his observation and research, he concluded that homeless people really needed clean socks.  So, that day at the training, we replicated what that 6 year old had done several years before: we made tube sock gifts to give out to the homeless we saw on the street.  Inside one tube sock we placed a juice box, crackers, candy, etc, along with the other sock.  We each made two and were given the instruction to hand these out when we passed a homeless person in our cars.

I went along with the project, but I doubted I would ever hand out the sock.  Something about it made me uncomfortable.

Well, weeks went by and the socks sat on my desk.  Then I moved out of my classroom, and the socks made it to the back of my car. I wasn’t thrilled about handing these out, but I couldn’t just throw them away either.  One day a few weeks ago I was at a stoplight on 290 and saw a homeless woman asking for money.  With my heart pounding, I reached back behind me and grabbed the sock.  Waving at the woman, I hesitantly asked her, “Would you like a sock?”  I didn’t expect the response I got: smiling, she said, “Sure! I could always use clean socks!  God bless you!”

Needless to say, I was humbled.  And happy.  And surprised.  I’m not sure what was holding me back (pride, fear, shame, disdain, selfishness?), but once I got over it and did this kind deed (though small), I felt good.  In that moment, I connected with her, and we were equals.

Last week I gave out my second sock to another homeless man who was equally as grateful.  Do you ever feel guilty when you drive past a homeless person on the side of the road?  I think that perhaps I feel this as I look away and pretend they’re not there.  Something about such a small act changed that.  It’s hardly anything tangible that I’m giving, but maybe there’s more to it.  I’m giving kindness? respect? care?  acknowledgment? And in return I’m getting peace. satisfaction. gratitude. thanks.

After three years of teaching children about philanthropy, I think I’m finally learning about it myself.  All it took was a couple of juice boxes, some tube socks, and a few people who care about our community.  Thanks, ALOG.  You’re reaching more than you know.