About La Mother Tongue

La Mother Tongue is my medium to share the joys and challenges of being a new parent as well as to share how we make a conscious effort in our daily life to bring baby up bilingual.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Before Thanksgiving every year, we try to make a large donación of food and since Sofía was born, we have included her in the ritual because we think it is important that she learn about giving to others in need. My husband used to make his donaciones to general organizations like Toys for Tots before he met me. Then it became personal. Sure, I think that everyone feels a twinge in their hearts when they make a donación to their churches or food banks because they wish that they could help more people out. That’s just it, they are people. People who need your help, who, in the majority of the cases, you don’t know, but who you know need your help. I think it is another story when you are a teacher. You see these children every day, in every situation. You notice that when it starts to get cold outside, that the students who don’t come dressed in coats, don’t because they don’t have one. Or maybe they come to school with the same clothes on every day. In my case, our school had some 320 students and out of them, 55 families were given food baskets for Thanksgiving last year. That’s just the number of families, I can’t give you the number of kids because some have multiple children, but there are at least 55 kids affected. Donaciones to the “needy” becomes a whole different ball game when you know these kids and their families personally. One doesn’t worry so much about the students who live in homeless shelters because, there, the students and their families receive clothing, food and school supplies all year long. (We worry about them for other reasons, but not for these basic human needs.) The majority of the families in need, have jobs but aren’t able to make ends meet. They work and they work long hours, so not only can they not always provide for some of the basic needs for their children, they also don’t get to spend time with them which only adds salt to the wound. Many of these families live with extended family members who help out with child care, or often an older sibling will take care of the younger ones. In our case, the majority of these families are Hispanic, but not all of them. Many are from other countries too, (we live in a very diverse region) but again, not all of them. So while the students are in school, we at least know that they are eating breakfast and lunch. We don’t really know about dinner, but at least that will free up some of the burden and mean that the families only need to buy for one meal. If you saw the way some of the students ate breakfast at 6AM….you would understand that they had not eaten since lunchtime. So, when we really worry about the familias and the students is when they are on vacation. If there is no school, there are no free breakfasts and lunches.
So during Thanksgiving and Winter breaks (at least 3 weeks for our area) the school rallies its community together and gives food baskets. The number of familias went down by 10 this year. So 45 people were going to be given food baskets. Last year we made a donación of about 20 pavos. This year we tried to challenge ourselves to buy all the pavos for the families. We did….Gracias a Dios for the minivan!! We unfortunately have no pics of Sofía that day. She had a lot of fun being the center of attention of course. I was prepared to blog about how disgusted I was with humanity and the supermarkets because no one wanted to give us a LITTLE discount for buying so many turkeys. I wanted to write the headquarters of Giant and Safeway because they were ridiculously stingy when so many people really need so much help. No one wanted to help us out or give us any kind of discount. When I spoke with people in person or on the phone (yes, I dragged Sofía with me to the meat counters for some extra empathy) the answer I got was pretty much the same. “We have a lot of people and organizations coming in here buying way more turkeys than you and we just can’t give that amount of people a discount for turkeys or we will lose money.” I told them that if that many people are buying that many turkeys for donaciónes, that means that there are that many people out there without FOOD!!! Everywhere I went, it was the same and it was futile. I came to the realization that none of these butchers and none of these wholesale poultry vendors have ever known someone who was in true need. If they had, they would have at least SHOWN some ounce of empathy. I should correct myself, everywhere was the same except one small supermarket that had a young Latino butcher as a manager. He tried to help us. He made several phone calls, he contacted me daily and when we met, you knew that he also had met many familias who needed a pavo, a box of cereal, soup or a coat. It ended up that he couldn’t even convince his meat managers to meet the competitor’s regular price and he unfortunately could only offer us the regular price…which was in fact DOUBLE the competitor’s regular price. So we were forced to actually buy all 45 pavos elsewhere because of money. That’s fine. We made our donación and we helped some of my former students survive a little less stressed during their vacation from school.
Out of this we decided that between Thanksgiving and Navidad, that we would do some kind of “good deed” with Sofía every week. It is kind of like my own LIVING ADVENT CALENDAR. So next week, we will buy a load of canned goods at Costco to donate to the school again. (What happens is that the food pantry becomes depleted during Thanksgiving food basket time and when the students return to school again, there will be families who will need food again.) The weeks after that, I don’t know what we will do, but I will try to post what happens!

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