Protocol at my eight-year-old granddaughter’s school is such that if a student forgets his, or her, lunch money or hasn’t sufficient funds remaining on their lunch account, that child is served the dreaded “cheese sandwich” and a carton of milk. Wholesome, yes.
Of course, spotting this “bare bones” lunch on a child’s tray announces a lack of funds to the other children in the cafeteria. The word POOR might as well be stamped on foreheads like a scarlet letter.
This scenario brings to mind that scene from the movie "Terms of Endearment" where actress Debra Winger stands in a grocery store line with her two sons. Her character doesn't have enough money to pay for the groceries she's selected. One of her sons says, quite loudly, as his mother chooses items to be deducted from her total, "You don't have enough money?" Like a gossip tidal wave, the poor woman's lack of capital spreads from line to line, customer to customer, employee to employee.
In the movie, it's funny.
In real life, not so.
To relate my story, I must first set the stage a bit more - and, mind you, this is not a slight against cafeteria personnel. Like all of us, they are simply doing their jobs.
But onto my tale: my daughter, Jennifer, in her dedication to raise a kind and productive citizen gives Ireland enough money each Monday for five day's worth of lunches, allowing for an ice cream treat one day only. It is Ireland's responsibility to see that her money lasts. That means, no extra treats on the sly. Their system, thus far, has proved an excellent learning tool.
In more ways than one . . .
The other day, a little girl stood in front of Ireland in the lunch line. The child, another third grader, had chosen her lunch, placed the items on her tray and preceded to the checkout station, only to be told she hadn't enough money left in her account to cover a full lunch. A flood tears started as cafeteria attendants began removing food items from the girl's tray.
Ireland sprang to action. She tugged her $11.00 from her jeans pocket and offered to pay for the girl's lunch.
"You're not allowed to do that," the checker said.
"But my mom would want you to," Ireland protested. "She would want me to do it."
The woman remained steadfast in adhering to the rules, so Ireland separated $2.00 from her wad of cash and handed the bills to the child. What could the attendant do? She couldn't very well take money away from the girl.
Tears dried. The girl proceeded through checkout, her lunch and pride intact.
When Ireland got in the car after school, she explained to her mom what had happened - and what she chose to do about it, leaving herself short one day's lunch for the rest of the week. Not only had Jennifer molded a generous child, she'd shaped an independent thinker. It takes guts to speak up for a stranger, to - in a sense - buck authority. Especially at the tender age of eight.
Jennifer could've cried.
I find myself sniffling as I write this. So . . . here's a shout out to you, Ireland Moore. Your generous heart and kindness toward others makes me so proud I could shout it from the rooftops - or blog about it.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. Follow Ireland's lead. Kindness only takes a moment, and sometimes, as little as $2.