In his must-read book, Up from Slavery, Booker T.Washington shares one of the most moving events of his entire career:
“I recall one old coloured woman who was about seventy years of age, who came to see me when we were raising money for the farm. She hobbled into the room where I was, leaning on a cane. She was clad in rags; but they were clean. She said:
‘Mr. Washin’ton, God knows I spent de bes’ days of my life in slavery.God knows I’s ignorant an’ poor; but,’ she added, ‘I knows what you an’ Miss Davidson is tryin’ to do.I knows you is tryin’ to make better men an’ better women for de coloured race.I ain’t got no money, but I wants you to take dese six eggs, what I’s been saving’ up, an’ I wants you to put dese six eggs into the eddication of deseboys an’ gals.’
Since the work at Tuskegee started, it has been my privilege to receive many gifts for the benefit of the institution, but never any, I think, that touched me so deeply as this one.”Kindle Link
Six eggs. All she had. And so many of us want to give nothing.
You get what you pay for. Now, before all of you start complaining about property taxes, I agree that we all pay a lot in taxes. This isn’t about that.
In times of prosperity, we put money into things and think that is doing something. Money isn’t everything, especially when it has to do with children. Children need our hearts, hands, and time. Nothing less for educating the young.
This woman knew that there were good things happening at Tuskegee and gave all she had to help. If you know good things are happening somewhere, are you giving anything at all? You can give your time but you can also volunteer, give something for an event coming up, sponsor an ad in the annual, or help with an after school club.
I’m challenged by this woman. In fact, I’m challenged by everything that Booker T Washington has to say in his autobiography and feel that he is often oddly prophetic about many things that have come to pass. I wish every educator and student had to read Up from Slavery as it has so many things to discuss and was written only a few years after the abolition of slavery.
School starts today. I’m going to get dressed, run to get some Mello Yello Zero and Diet Coke Zero to restock my fridge and school and open up my room for the first day. I’ll pray over each chair and make my list as I help teachers get their computers doing, reset passwords, and get the PowerSchool mobile app ready for the meetings tonight. I’ll cry a little bit as I consider that my son will start his senior year this Thursday. My heart and soul will be poured into my students this year and I’ll be there for my kids. I’ll sell some spare computer parts to try to raise enough money to outfit our auditorium with a projector and screen. I don’t have everything I want or even need, but I have me and my God and that is enough to change the world and the lives of these students.
I’ll give all I have and that will be enough. I believe that good things are happening in my school and classroom and those good things start with me and a love for my students. This year, I’m going to have a folder for each child and they’ll put their passions and interests into that folder on day One. I want to know them and encourage them.
If 6 eggs is all I have, then that is enough, but since I have more, I’ll give it. The best days of my life are spent being a Mama and a teacher. I’m ready to start and dive in. I don’t look back to a summer now gone but forward to a life well spent.
Wake up to a new day dawning – the dawn of a school year. See this woman of old hobbling to a school to give all she has because she believes education is a good thing and humbly set your face towards a task so noble that a former slave will give her last 6 eggs to support it.
Remember your noble calling, teacher. YOU ROCK!