A Little Church and State Mix Up
Meet Talley, LICSW. She’s a shaker and a mover. Talley is a friend from my church who also married into a most wonderful family that I know from my younger days. Talley gets things done.
I am always humored by the little snippets that pop up every once in a while about the separation of “Church” and “State”. I am particularly fond of the one that goes a little something like this: “prayer will always be in schools as long as there are children with exams!”.
Being a gal who was raised as a Methodist in the South, I certainly have done my share of praying prior, during, and after tests; I am even certain of several instances where the Lord Himself gave me a passing grade that I clearly did not earn.
These days, however, I am in a little bit more of a dicey situation about the separation of church and state. As a social worker in a public high school in a small town in New Hampshire, I can’t exactly profess my love for the Lord and my salvation through His son on a frequent basis at work. In addition to it being illegal (unless the child initiates the conversation and inquires about my faith), it would be a poor exercise in boundaries. And we all have heard plenty of stories of therapist-type people who have bad boundaries.
And yet, the secret spy parts of me long for integration of the selves within me that represent “therapist” and “Believer”.
In April of 2009, the students at my high school took the infamous Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS for those of us who live for this data–for those who don’t, please see this department of ed page). For the first time, the wise survey writers asked the question “How often do you go hungry because there is not enough food in the home?” and roughly 10% of the students in my school said “sometimes or more often”. As if this were not horrific enough, when the survey was administered again in April of 2011, the same question returned a result of 15%.
For those of you who are not data nerds, this represents a STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT increase in hunger in my community in a two year span. And I could not sleep thinking about 200 of the kids at my high school not having enough to eat.
Certainly I couldn’t expect my help in this situation to come from a government assistance program and I was not willing to wait. So I called all of the churches in the four towns that send students to my high school and said: “Please come to talk about hunger in our community. We need to figure out what is working and what isn’t.”
And you know what happened? They came. 25 pastors and lay people came to a meeting in a public high school, hearts broken knowing that there were children who lay in bed at night with bellies empty since their free lunch at school at 10:37AM. All of these churches have food pantries in the community, but the new demographic of hungry children is more frequently represented by a working mom who cannot visit a food pantry at 9AM on a Wednesday morning than the one who can. So I asked for gift cards to the two most reasonable grocery stores in my community.
And you know what happened? They gave generously. Plentifully. Obnoxiously, in fact.
Within 2 days, I had $250 in gift cards to the grocery stores and to Subway.
Within a week, I had $600.
Two months later, we have had over $1000 in gift cards to grocery stores. Oh, and one of the major grocery chains in our town gave us $1000 donation, too. Their manager is a Believer.
Hungry children are being fed. Period.
A public school employee called out with a need to the churches in the community, and they answered.
That is what I call building community.
Take THAT separation of “Church” and “State”!