The Chalk Blog

How to be "Folks"

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Everybody Needs Somebody.

“Jolly came home bleeding and she doesn’t have folks.
‘Nobody doesn’t have folks,’ I said.
‘I’m Nobody, then,’ she said, ’‘Cause I don’t.’ Her whole face was scraped like it had a grater taken to it, like it was cheese.”

-Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

In Make Lemonade, 14-year-old LaVaughn takes a job as a babysitter for 17-year-old Jolly, who has lived in foster care her whole life, and has two children from fathers who are not in the picture. As the story goes on, it’s clear that Jolly doesn’t really know how to do life – manage money, raise healthy children, even hold a job – because she has never really had what she calls “folks”: people who took a vested interest in showing her how to do things. LaVaughn helps Jolly to navigate through some of her issues and shows her resources to help her get on her feet, and to find resources for her to learn more about how to access a good life for her children and herself.

We make choices every day: red shirt or blue shirt, jeans or dress pants, what to have for breakfast, etc. These choices are pretty mundane, and don’t have a lot of impact on us or anyone else (unless your red shirt really does have super powers – where did you get that, by the way?). But there are other choices we each make regularly that can have a large-scale effect on our world: we can choose how present we will be for each other, and we can choose to embody a willingness to be available if needed.

The marginalized people in our communities are hardly invisible, but if we are standing from a position of stability and privilege, it takes effort to notice how we can be of service to one another. There are plenty of people in our communities who need the presence of someone who can offer his or her care. Some community members have lost their way, their drive, and/or their dignity. Still others are mentally ill and can barely get up in the morning. People live, work, worship and breathe together in designated towns, subdivisions, city blocks – but our connections with each other are becoming more and more distant. We are losing our human connection to one another, and with that, we are becoming self-imposed islands that cannot be easily bridged.

While it’s fantastic to teach children to “give to others,” we must embolden ourselves and our children to give more generously of our time, our presence, and our help. We have to understand that people need each other, and that we can draw on one others’ strength. This isn’t easy. There’s a lot of uncertainty involved, especially the fear of getting into someone’s business. However, I would offer this – if you were in need, and eyes were averted, would that help or hinder you?

We need to be each others’ “folks,” so we can know that, if we happen to fall, we will be lifted up, not trampled. We have to (always!) be on the lookout for opportunities to reach out and offer ourselves. And we need confidence that our kindness will be received.

Learners Edge offers many courses on Social Emotional Learning that can help you become prepared to be one of the "folks" your student may need.

Here are a few:

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Social Emotional Learning

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