’Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the county
May we all be so grateful we share of our bounty.
My deepest apologies to Clement Moore (author of the original poem), but it’s a Gerwig family tradition to repurpose poems to make a point. There is no doubt that as a mother, my first priority is my sons; we all have to ensure safety and goodness and wonder for our own families. My sons are also very capable of making their wishes known — from texting me links to items on their Christmas lists to adding snacks to our Instacart orders. They’re ever-present in my life (even when I need some time to myself). Guess who’s not ever present in my life? The children in Bibb County growing up in poverty — many in “extreme poverty.” Although the overall Macon-Bibb poverty rate is “only” 28 percent, our child poverty rate hovers around 40 percent. That is a crisis.
I know we are all dismayed at our murder rate this year — I certainly am. But in 20 years of working with clients in the criminal justice system, I’ve learned that the No. 1 predictor of criminological behavior is childhood trauma. We have hundreds of children in DFCS care and even more in juvenile justice system, including kids who will spend this holiday locked up. They’ve lost family members (often to violence); been removed from their loved ones; gone without meals; and lived without emotional or physical security. It is a tragedy that any child endures this trauma, but in our town (and indeed or state and nation), this is far too common.
Kids who need the free meals served in school will be insecure about their food until school resumes in January, and though many are working hard to cover that gap, we won’t for every family. My sister shared that when she was serving food over Thanksgiving, she had children as young as 6 show up alone to ask for a free meal. A child we are sponsoring for Christmas asked for Kroger gift cards. What child worries about a gift card to a grocery store?
So as we work to trim our trees, buy our own kids that “wow” present they hoped for but didn’t think they’d receive, and try to keep our sanity amidst all the rush, let’s try to make time to bring holiday magic to a child who just hopes they get a special meal or clothes that fit. So many wonderful groups — supported by your volunteerism and generosity — are working to make Christmas magic for kids in need. The Methodist Home, DFCS and other social services organizations are still collecting gifts — but they can also use gifts of your time in the coming year. Maybe this is the year we can all work to make consistent, yearlong commitments to an organization serving our children — and their parents — in meaningful, daily ways.
To paraphrase another well-known saying: the best time to help a child is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. Let’s all make that our holiday (and New Year — and every-year) resolution.
On another note, I want to thank the staff at The Telegraph for the opportunity to write for them this year. Unfortunately, I have only one more column remaining before I sign off, as I need to return to other writing projects and deadlines. Thank you for hearing me out over the past six months; this was certainly one of my highlights of 2018.
Sarah Gerwig is a law professor and word enthusiast raising her two sons in Macon.