How can we change the world and make it a better place for everyone in it? How can we make the change and be the change? That’s a discussion I had with Union Intermediate School students just recently. I asked them if someone their age, 9-12-year-old students, could make a change within their communities and the world. Most of the responses from each class were “no”. But they were wrong, and they proved themselves wrong with the start of an idea to bake cookies.
My now 19-month-old son was born with a congenital heart defect. He underwent open-heart surgery at Duke University Hospital in December of 2016. After several interventional catherization procedures, we found out that he would need another open-heart surgery; however, this time, his records would be sent out of state. A world renowned and sought after thoracic surgeon would soon hold my toddler’s medical records in his hands while we prayed and tried to wait patiently for the surgeon to accept him as a patient.
Word soon spread throughout the community and my new school family. Students started coming up to me and saying they had heard about my little boy and wanted to offer support with hugs, handmade cards, and well wishes. I was not sure who had told the students what was going on and I was honestly a little confused. One morning, I saw a 5th grade student, Miss Sarah Millen, get off the bus with two large batches of cookies. Playfully, I held out my hands and told her thank you for the cookies she had baked for me. She smiled and walked into school with her cookies. The next day, she had more cookies. I started seeing students walking down the halls with cookies. Teachers were eating cookies. Cookies seemed to be everywhere, and their main station was in the office, being sold by Mrs. Angela Burley and our Principal, Mr. Jim Workman. I asked Mrs. Burley who was selling cookies and she cheerfully stated that Sarah Millen was with the help of her mother, Mrs. Anita Millen. Cookies were .50 cent and I, unfortunately, didn’t have that amount on me, but they sure looked delicious.
The next day, I saw Sarah and another student walking down the hall with cookies they had purchased after lunch. I asked what she was selling cookies for, to which Sarah replied, “They are .50 cent.” Again, I asked what she was selling them for and she said, “For your trip.” I remember looking down at the floor, maybe I was half listening, and then it hit me what exactly she had said. I stopped for a second in the hallway watching the two girls walk off as they smiled back at me. I immediately went to my office and became overwhelmed by what the students were doing. I found out that it all started when Mrs. Tanya Freeman, Health and Physical Education Teacher, spoke to the students about Jump Rope for Heart. Sarah called Mrs. Freeman over the weekend – excited about her plan. When I spoke to Sarah’s mother, she said that over 1,500 cookies were baked and sold. Flavors from chocolate chip to the student’s favorite, the snicker cookie, had been made.
I began to thank each class for their kindness. One student stood up and said, “Mrs. McLamb, I don’t even like cookies and I’ve been buying a lot!” Miss Alana Lockwood-Garcia, a 5th grade student in Mrs. Wendy Smith’s homeroom class, even stood at the front of her church one Sunday and asked to have special prayer for my little one.
Just recently, I heard of another story of support from students this year at Union Intermediate. A 5th grade student’s brother was going through a tough time during the Christmas season. The students in Ms. Marsha Tart’s and Mrs. Amy Tart’s homeroom classes came together and donated money, gift cards, and other items to help provide support for their classmate’s family.
I have worked for the NC Public School System for 6 years. In those years, I have never met a group of students who came together as a whole and supported one of their teachers and classmates as these students have. Television and social media give the world a negative taste on life, however, the world is a beautiful place and filled with amazing kindness. When our lives seem to take a different course than what we expect, I have found that people literally come out of the woodwork. People you have never met offer prayers and support of all kinds. Children, our students here in Sampson County, can come together as one, without judgement, without wanting something in return, without any emotion other than the desire to help someone else. That’s powerful! Mr. Workman and so many others have said, “This is our next generation,” and I am so very blessed to know that these students, Union Intermediate students, will be my future generation. Let’s take time to put away the negative and harvest a kind, caring, and considerate next generation.
Union Intermediate students, I am so proud of you! I am proud that you came together as a whole and showed so much kindness and compassion for someone else. All of you were able to change the world, my world. You made the change and are being the change, just like our lesson demonstrated. I hope you never forget that each of you can transform this planet – one kind action at a time. Union Intermediate staff and others in the community who have done so much for my son, thank you. Thank you for your love, your kindness, your support, and most importantly, your prayers.