If I Were President

If you think your children aren’t listening, think again.  This passage was excerpted from my younger son’s fifth-grade essay prompted by the phrase, “If I were president. . .”

If you think that this is just a silly exercise for urban elementary schoolers, think again.  Sure, a child’s naïveté shines through, but so does his character. I am proud of my son for these opening paragraphs.  Editor’s Note:  His essay did veer from the path when he stated he would add a basketball court, football field, and video game room to the White House because the White House is probably pretty boring after all that paperwork.  But his lede?  Pulitzer Prize-worthy.

Last fall, my family was hiking along an inter-urban bike path, its trailhead a five-minute drive from our home.  The kids were interested in the tents pitched along the river.  They thought it was super cool!  Whoa, what a cool place to camp!  I wish we could camp down there, let’s go check it out!  Well. . .  their observations led to a talk about homelessness, and how individuals and families come to be homeless.  Camping along the Kinnickinnic River immediately lost its cool factor.

Sometimes as a parent, well as this parent anyway, you don’t know when you’re hitting the high notes.  You throw your spaghetti against the wall and hope it sticks.  You talk–sometimes you shout, you feel you shout into the void–and sometimes, against all odds, you uncover evidence that you’re heard.

For single men and women, three commonly cited causes of homelessness are substance abuse, a lack of affordable housing, and mental illness [not sure how to cite sources anymore, click here to learn more about homelessness in my home state.]

I can’t speak to substance abuse personally.  I’m pure as the driven snow when it comes to any (in some states) legal or illegal drugs.  I’ve never even smoked one cigarette in my entire life. Gross. Rizatriptan is the hardest drug I’ve ever done–suck it, migraines!  I do enjoy red, white and green beverages, but have never felt the pull of the sauce so strongly that it’s interfered with my ability to function.  I’m lucky.

Though my annual income was slashed over $10,000 when Wisconsin laws against public employees, no wait, I mean since Wisconsin laws to balance the state budget whose shortfall was apparently entirely the fault of public school educators were enacted,  I’ve always had a modestly, yet decently-appointed place to call home.  On December 31, 1994, I woke up with my house on fire.  I was homeless briefly, which was terrifying, but I had family and friends willing to lend a guest bed or couch.  I never had to seek a bed in shelter or sleep in my car. I was lucky.

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or any one of hundreds of potentially debilitating mental health diseases or disorders and you can both afford to see a mental health professional and have prescription coverage, you’re lucky.  Even if you don’t see always see it because depression lies, you are lucky.  You’re also brave.  Go, you!

This is a treatise on neither homelessness nor mental illness.  There are important organizations whose work on behalf of its clients is life-changing for those they serve.  I am inadequately informed or researched to publish anything with any authority.  I will leave that to the experts.  (I’m looking at you, NAMI, Stigma Fighters. . .)  No, this is a treatise on the importance of decency: Speak and act in a way you hope your children sponge up and spread, and look to the stars with hope they do it better than you!

When you observe that despite what your child sees on the news in the despicable, embarrassing behavior of adults in powerful positions, he attends to the words and behavior of adults a little closer to home, your heart bursts.  My baby’s heart is pure, and while his ideals are just a wee bit simplistic, a little, oh, how you say? Fifth-grade-ish??  Reading his essay gives me a sliver of hope that the divisiveness and bombast in current favor can fall out.  Maybe this little voice will pick up momentum.  Maybe if we viewed the world through a fifth-grader’s gentle blue eyes, we’d all better off:  Be empathetic.  Be generous.  Be kind.  Be helpful.

I’d vote for him. 

If you agree that empathy and kindness matter, please share this message.  My kid will probably die a thousand deaths in embarrassment, but I’m willing to take the heat from him for it.  (I can take his wrath–he’s a really sweet kid, have you heard?)  But if you’re a person who lives your life looking for castes, believing yours is better and more worthy than theirs, if you think or say “those people,” well, I don’t imagine this’ll change your mind anyway.
























12 thoughts on “If I Were President

  1. Good news! The White House HAS a basketball court (thanks to President Obama) and a tennis court, too. So, we checked off the easy things on your son’s list. But, what a beautiful essay and what a great reminder that a President can — and should — lead with a compassionate heart for ALL Americans and, especially, for those on the fringes in need. I hope your son DOES run for President some day!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. From the mouths of Abe’s and mirror of ourselves, momma. We as parents with walk the talk or don’t, so remember that when you read with pride his essay and stance on the subject. He learned about It in school, he learned how to perceive it process it at Home. That’s no small thing my dear. Pride in you both! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this. Your son writes with such enlightened maturity which can only be a by product of what his mom taught him 🙂 It’s amazing how many grown adults aren’t smart or compassionate enough to figure this out so it’s a darn good thing the next generation is filled with kids like yours!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your son’s heart is in the right place, and I would be proud, too. He might be embarrassed when he revisits his essay, but I hope he holds the basic ideals behind his thoughts. We need more civil servants and authority figures who are compassionate and want to hold public office in order to serve others instead of themselves or just an ideology.

    For single men and women, three commonly cited causes of homelessness are substance abuse, a lack of affordable housing, and mental illness…

    Per the part a bolded: People who fit into that category are called the working homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Serving others? Yes! I think sometimes authority and power yield memory lapse when those who rise to those stations. I too hope my baby continues to hold on those ideals as he matures and learns more about the real world. We need these decent and kind little ones not to lose their collective memories, no matter what the real world dishes out, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep and we owe it to them to remind them what’s important.

        Unfortunately, it’s so easy to stray when money comes into the equation. There are only a few principled politicians out there and they are either used or silenced by the corrupt ones.

        I just hope more people from younger generations keep in mind that civil service is about the people.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Howdy Wendy!

    Kids have such a wonderful sense of fairness and justice. How much they get from us genetically and how much we nurture them to be like us, I don’t know, but it is nice to see the good pieces of yourself reflected in them.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. We live in a world in desperate need of more empathetic hearts and minds, Wendy. Your son’s naïveté will be tempered with wisdom eventually — probably before too soon — but I hope he never loses his idealism, a virtue and a resource in awfully short supply these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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