When I was young and childless, I used to look nice. I was never one of those women who had to have the right outfit and shoes, but at least I was presentable. It was fun to get a new outfit or two, and I usually had at least three pairs of shoes to choose from.
That was then, this is now. For now I have three children, all attending private Catholic schools. Our school district would eat them alive. Chewed up Murray kids, spit all about the school hallways. Pieces of them on the wall, in the doorway – oh look, there is a bit of Murray on the doorknob!
But my decision isn’t just because of our horrible school district. It is because these schools are GOOD. No, they are GREAT. My children and I became part of a community family the very day we first entered the school. And you know what? They can say the word “Jesus” during the CHRISTMAS program. Very refreshing indeed.
For the last twelve years my life has revolved around sacrifice. It has taken everything I have and everything I don’t have to keep one, two and then three children in Catholic school. It has taken tears. It has taken grandparents. It has sometimes taken food from my children’s mouths. I will never forget crying, digging in the seat cushions to find just one dollar’s worth of change to get my young son a hamburger at McDonald’s. I never found that dollar.
Many families who send their kids to these schools know all to well “Breakfast for Dinner,” hamburger helper and financial aid. And even with financial aid, the simple act of realizing school picture money is due can send panic and dread straight to your toes and back.
Comparing these schools to other private schools in our area, the cost is fair. It is more than fair. And the education is invaluable. But it costs money to run a school. ANY private school – not just Catholic. From Christian to Jewish to anything in between…. it will cost money to have your child attend the school. For years I have asked that the Diocese should do more for parents like me. Our children are their future. And our children (aka their future) sometimes eat cheap meals for dinner and often have ripped shoes and ill fitting clothes. If we have to drop out, there will inevitably be fewer adults in their parish ten years down the road.
This month I received a surprise letter in the mail. Make that three surprise letters. The Diocese had some additional funds that they were distributing to Catholic families for school tuition. Two were somewhat small (but welcome) while one was very significant. For this I am grateful. Make that, “I am BEYOND” grateful. This is such a good step in the right direction.
But I hope and pray the Church, school and Diocese can see people like me. I hope they can see the shoes I wear every day. The one pair that never comes off. I hope they can see my ugly thrift store clothes. My cheap hamburger helper meals. And you know what? I hope my kids will one day truly understand the extent of my sacrifices. The embarrassment I face daily at my “same old clothes” at work. I used to be pretty. I used to dress nice. Now I wear old shoes.
I think my children will one day get the proverbial light bulb over their heads and say, “Wow. My mom did this for me. Very, very cool.” They may face the same life with their own children as well. I am grateful for the amazing Catholic schools in our area. I am grateful for this year’s help from the Diocese. And I am grateful for each and every teacher, all of whom make far less than they should.
But gosh. I sure would like a new pair of shoes!