Monday, August 23, 2010

On Seeing | Guest Post from Becky of Beltline Bike Shop

There is something amazing happening in one Southwest Atlanta neighborhood, and this is just glimpse of the whole inspiring story.   You can read more about Beltline Bike Shop here, and you can donate here.  The Frugal Hostess can see the future, and you are really going to want to donate.

On Seeing | By Becky O'Mara

This summer, Tim began working with one of the kiddos on his reading. This 8-year-old that is around the house a lot was going to summer school. Half of our neighborhood was going to summer school. At some point, the offer came up that if he read an entire book, he could get an upgrade for his bike. He accepted and it was on.

It took several weeks to get through the book. This young boy is going into the 4th grade, by is probably on a first grade reading level. It was a second grade reading level book, but it seemed like we were stopping on every other word. Pretty soon reading time was supplemented with phonics lessons. We did a chapter each day he came by. The latter chapters were better than the first few! And his confidence was growing.

In the process, as Tim would watch him squint at the pages of the book, it became apparent that he couldn’t really see the words on the page. ‘Are the words blurry?’ Tim asked. The boy answered Yes…. and said that he used to have glasses. but they broke. His mom never got them fixed.

We talked to mom immediately, telling her that he really needed glasses. The summer went by and they just never got to it… finally, the first week of school, Tim and I went over together and said we would take them to get glasses. It was arranged and Tim took the family last Friday afternoon.

They are on Medicaid, so the examination was free. The glasses would also be free, but because it was Medicaid, it would take 6 weeks for them to come in. Because that makes sense?? Tim and the family decided they could not wait that  long, so they would buy a pair that would only take a week. The glasses would cost $80 at the local eyeglass shop.

Mom did not have the money, so the boy and his brother agreed to cut lawns to earn the money. Tim had lined up from several neighbors/landlords, so it worked out great. They came home that afternoon after the eye exam and got to work right away. Their loan is now completely paid off!

Our little guy now has glasses. The victory is not complete yet… we have to make sure he wears them all the time. (He REALLY needs them.) He came over today without them on. He is of course getting teased at school, but we think the neighborhood is a safe place (because anyone who makes fun of him will get in trouble from Mr. Tim if they do.) We just have to keep encouraging him to wear them. In the process, we’ve realized his older brother also really needs glasses, but is embarrassed to wear them. He’s a teenager and if his eyesight is as bad as his younger brother’s, we don’t know how he is functioning in school. That’s a challenge for another day. It makes me think, though, how many kids/teenagers/adults in our neighborhood genuninely can’t see, but do not wear glasses because of fear of rejection or humiliation, or because they just “can’t get to the store.”

Here is the moral of this story.

This family just needed someone to walk alongside them in this challenge. We can judge, say it’s irresponsible parenting for not getting a boy glasses, and that there are no excuses for that. But we all have areas in our lives where, for whatever reason, we are paralyzed. At times, we all need someone to walk alongside us, helping us make the right choices, and getting to the finish line.

Here’s the question: Who are you walking alongside? Do you know people well enough to know what they need encouragement in? This principle is not just applicable in the ‘hood. It’s in every neighborhood, every community, at every income level. Every one of us holds a unique power in making the world a better place in this way, if we will merely take the time to see.

[See?  Told ya.  Donate here.  There's also a list of tools and supplies they need here.]

photo by bgottsab
This week's posts will be dedicated to "small batch" change-makers.  Like the O'Maras and their Beltline Bike Shop, there are all kinds of people making real change in their neighborhoods and communities, one day at a time.  If you know someone who is giving their love and labor instead of their platitudes and punditry, The Frugal Hostess would appreciate a head's up at frugalhostess @ 
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