But shouldn't we do something?

The internet is abuzz with tweets, status updates and posts about this story. Don't worry, I'm not really going to get into it that specific case, but I have enjoyed seeing people's reactions especially because they seem to go beyond what normally happens in a case like this.

We've all seen it before. People think some parents aren't doing a good job ____ (feeding, educating, teaching that all lifestyles are equally valid, etc) their kids so the government needs to step in.

The reactions tend to fall into one of two camps. The first says that the government has no business interfereing. The other thinks that it does, because there are some truly crappy parents out there and shouldn't we step in and help those kids, who through no fault of their own, end up with the crappy* parents.

Depends on who "we" is. If "we" is the government, then no, I don't think "we" should because 1) it isn't the government's job and 2) the government can not do a better job parenting than a parent, even a bad parent.

But if by "we" you mean, individuals, then yes. I believe as Christians we are called to help those around us and that includes the little people. Ways this could be done include**:

  • The single dad in the army who keeps getting sent on TDY (short term, long distance assignments)?Have his 5 and 9 year old boys stay with you while he's gone. And while they are there, teach the 5 year old to read.
  • The middle school girl struggling with her femininity because her mother isn't in her life and her dad and younger brother aren't exactly helpful when it comes to learning how to dress and act like a lady? Turn your once a week get together with another mom and girl into a "girls club," include her and teach all three girls to bake, sew, quilt and memorize scripture.
  • When the young teen girl who doesn't get out much is invited to the same costume party your daughter is, but you know she doesn't have a costume or a way to get there? Say you have an extra one lying around, run around to quickly put together something that looks like something you would have had lying around, then tell her you'll pick her up when you drop of your daughter since its "sorta on the way" - even though it isn't. 
  • The brothers who have been attending Awana for several months but you still haven't met their parents or seen them at church? Spend some extra time going over their verses before quiz time to give them a chance to succeed and make sure they understand what they mean. When one says he wants to believe in God but can't because he wants to be a scientist when he grows up, lend him several books about science and God, even though you realize the chances of ever seeing those books again are pretty slim.
  • That high school friend of your son's who always seem to hang around your house at dinner time because his parents both work and he doesn't want to go home to an empty house and a Hot Pocket? Invite him to stay for dinner - even if you had him over the last two nights. 
Those aren't just random examples I thought up. Those are specific things I know my mom did, and just the ones I could think of in one evening. I'm sure there are lots more that I can't remember or was not aware of. It explains why when she died, a friend on mine from high school who could only get two days off of work drove 14 hours through the night, arrived at my house at 2 am to go to the funeral the next day, just to drive back 24 hours later. It's why people that are not one of her three biological children called her "mom."

When she died, people wanted to know where to donate money. What were her special causes? It was hard  to answer because she didn't have one special cause. People were her cause. Christ was her cause. This isn't a money issue, its a people issue. Sometimes I read a book or hear a story and I want to "do something," I want to save the world.  If only it were as simply as just sitting down, coming up with a plan and changing lives. Maybe it works that way some of the time but I think most people who make a difference are just open to situations and people, and are listening so when God gives them opportunities, they can take them. 

*When I'm talking about crappy parents, I'm not talking about abusive or truly neglectful parents.  I'm referring to those marginally crappy parents.

**I realize this makes it seem like the parents in these situations were bad parents. They weren't, they were just doing the best they could in difficult situations. Except the cases were a child was abandoned by a parent. Those parents are crap.


  1. This case has opened people's eyes because they identify with the mom. If the story had been about a kid with a Coke and Doritos, I think people would have said, "Poor kid, someone needs to step in and help." The someone in a government school will always be the government, but they wouldn't have minded for the sake of the greater good. What caught everyone's attention is that most of us would have considered that a healthy lunch and would have been proud to pack it. They weren't going after the neglectful mom; they were aiming for the conscientious mom.

    Because the reality is "bad parent" is a shifting definition, as you pointed out. By some measures, I'm a terrible, ought-to-have-my-kids-taken-away parent. So who gets to decide if my parenting decisions stand or can be overruled for the "good" of my kids? I'm hoping it's not the same people who made this rule/law about lunch.

  2. Here's where I think there's a disconnect between your/Craig's reaction to the story and mine: you see "the government" interfering in people's lives. I see teachers and school staff members trying to help the children they are charged with caring for. Like I said on Craig's post, I don't think the person who interfered with that specific little girl's lunch did that part of their job properly that day, even according the policy. But I don't think that proves it's bad that the policy gives the school staff the ability to give kids extra food if they think they need it.

    Teachers are technically "government operatives" (quoting from Craig), but they are also individuals. They are also mothers/fathers, aunts/uncles, grandparents, and if they didn't care about their students, they wouldn't have the jobs they do.

    I would have felt this way even before I started working at an elementary school, but my own experience does make it seem more immediate to me. When you work in a school, you don't walk out to your car in the morning thinking about all the government mandates you're going to carry out that day.

  3. But it isn't that teachers and staff members are now allowed to do something about this lunch issue epidemic that may or may not be going on, its that there is a state law requiring them too. I don't blame the teachers, its not their fault and I'm betting most of them would rather not be forced to do lunch inspections.

    I wonder what was happening before this law? A caring teacher could always have talked to the parents or have certain food items available (in fact, one teacher I consistently subbed for had items in her desk drawer for one student that she noticed had behavior issue at what would have been snack time had they still had them in 1st grade). And if it was a major school wide issue, they could send a note home or try and educate the parents in another way. Of course, this would still ultimately leave the issue up to the parents. But it isn't an all or nothing thing - have a law requiring lunch inspections or let 4 year olds starve.