As 1inspiredidiot, our Board member Tim Burke, enters the most challenging section of his 146- mile ultra marathon, I started thinking about the parallels he draws between his run and the many daunting challenges the children at SouthSide face. We were reminded the other day that in our work with children burdened with aching trauma and looming disadvantage, from time to time there are setbacks. A child – I will call him “Tomas” – who made remarkable progress over the past year academically and emotionally recently began sliding rapidly and we are working so hard to halt the reversal. His family’s challenges include loss and separation, disability and every painful consequence of extreme poverty you can imagine. Tomas’s mom works hard in a job that pays far too little to support even the basics for her family. For her and her son these days are their Mt. Whitney.
I’m not with Tim and his team in Death Valley, but I picture him with blisters, sore muscles, heat stress and countless other challenges. His team and coach are there to treat, support and encourage Tim, literally to put one foot in front of the other. Pace doesn’t matter to him – just the journey and the destination.
The other day our SouthSide support team was with Tomas when he began tearing artwork from the walls, arms flailing – the kind of challenging meltdown we haven’t seen in months. His teacher Jackie, along with Allyson, our Mental Health Coordinator, and Patty, our Mentor Teacher, skillfully and gently calmed him down, but he still simmered. We have our theories about what is going on – Tomas leaves soon for kindergarten, and separation and change are extremely hard for him. He has cognitive and language challenges that make it difficult for him to express himself. He might be feeling the emotional toll of poverty on his family. We are working with his mom to understand the full scope of what they are facing.
And here’s what SouthSide and 1inspiredidiot have in common: we will not back down from the toughest challenge. We will not give up on this child no matter how difficult the climb. We will bring every resource we can muster, from our own team and our community partners, to help Tomas and his family. It is entirely possible for Tomas to be successful, with the right support and a strong team for him and his mom. We will keep working with him, at his own pace, with a gentle hand and words of encouragement, to put one foot in front of the other. We’ll stick with him even after he leaves for elementary school, offering guidance to his new teachers and always being available as a trusted resource for his mom.
We’re climbing again tomorrow. Thank you for supporting Tim. You are investing in a sustainable future for SouthSide and for all the children that we are privileged to nurture, educate and inspire.