A teacher tells a story about a boy in her class. It has a beginning, a middle, and no end.

"This is a boy who is trying to learn how to carry the one while his life is in upheaval."

Anna teaches third grade.


She's here to tell a story about a boy in one of her classes.

He is Aboriginal, 8 years old, and the oldest of three children in a single-parent household. His mother just moved the family to get a fresh start. They live in public housing.

One day:

What's worse is that this story is not unique. She ends on the following note:

To be clear, this is just one story of one student in my class. I could tell you others of refugee families making a new home for themselves with a child who has nightmares every night of his father being shot in front of him, or of a student who was physically pulled away from the only parent she's ever known, or of a child living with her disabled grandmother and having to, at ten years old, do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping and maintenance, because this grandmother is the only one in the family who was able to nurture and love her.

I could tell you about a girl and her brother who chase the mice that live in their house back and forth from one bedroom to the other as a game. I could tell you about a little girl whose dad carefully butters one single piece of bread for her to take for lunch every day. There's more of them, too, and they're all just trying to learn, and it's too hard, because learning is about taking risks and trying your best, and it's about sometimes making mistakes, and when you're poor, when you're so poor that you're worried and anxious and insecure, learning to carry the one is almost impossible.

As troubling as these stories are, they beg the question: If they're not supposed to make us feel bad, what are we supposed to do now that we know? For starters, it should help put an end to all those calls for the poor to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." Second, it's important to support policies that address poverty in meaningful ways — ensuring a living wage, keeping welfare benefits up-to-date with inflation, and a lot more.

Awareness is only as good as the action it inspires.

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