Editor’s note: The following comes from what was commissioned as the first article of a travel series about the writer’s vacation in Europe. However, life and death work on their own time. And at the top of the horizon glares fear itself. On the other hand, however, to travel, to learn, to meet, speak, eat, drink, and make friends with people from all corners of this frigid and fragile cube of a world, is to save it from the fear that threatens to rip it into pieces. What weird things we should be, if we let ourselves be led into the madness of fear. Perspective and empathy drive the world forward, so carry on and stay strong.
During the late evening hours of Saturday, June 3, the United Kingdom experienced yet another terror attack, this time in London.
It began along the London Bridge when three men in a van drove directly into pedestrian traffic. When the van finally came to a stop, the men jumped out of the van and began attacking people with knives, near Borough Market. Eight people have died and numerous others were injured.
I was supposed to go to Borough Market, as well as the London Bridge the next day. My family and I have been on vacation in England for a week and we were on our way back from touring the northern part of the country when we heard the news reports.
As we made our way back to the city the following day, the reports coming in from American news websites cast a dreary picture of the town we approached. Words such as ‘reeling’ and ‘horrified’ were being used to describe the Londoners’ feelings about the terror attack from the previous night.
However, what I heard on the British news and what I saw on the streets of London were in direct contrast to the American suggestion that the people of London were apparently in shell shock from the horrifying incident. What happened was really quite terrible, but after what I saw the next day, the word I would use to describe them is resilient.
As I walked along the road leading up to the London Bridge, there was an impromptu memorial set up for the victims. The memorial was adorned with flowers and as I stood there paying my respects, more people came by to offer flowers and quiet condolences. Also available at the memorial were grief counselors, free to anyone who needed someone to talk to. I saw two police officers attempting to comfort a woman who had obviously lost someone dear to her.
A man in front of me walked up to the memorial, laid his bouquet down, and silently walked away.
What I didn’t see during the days after the attack was any evidence of hate toward another Londoner. There weren’t any signs, indicating various people unwelcome. No slurs of hate, no acts of retaliation, no signs of permanent change to the Londoners’ lives.
Instead of allowing this attack to push the people toward hate and fear, the citizens of London are rallying against what the attackers wanted. All along London, I found signs asking people to turn to love.
One bar patron actually returned to the pub after the attack, to pay their bill. Multiple shop keepers shouted for people to seek safety inside their shop. Instead of running from the attackers, several people ran toward them. These are not people who are afraid. These are people who are fighting for the good in London.
The people are not in anguish, as some media outlets would portray.
London is resilient.
The moments of the terror attack were horrifying but these people allowed those moments to be what they were and then they moved on. They have to. They know that for as long as they remain stagnant in fear and hate, the enemy wins.
In the past week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency conducted a series of raids across Northeast Texas and as far north as Oklahoma.
“A 34-year-old Mexican national, convicted of resisting arrest and search for transporting a deadly weapon, was arrested June 1, 2017 in Paris, Texas, by the Dallas Mobile Criminal Alien Team and Fugitive Operations Team. He is currently in ICE custody pending his removal,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a release Tuesday.
“Federal officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested 70 criminal [foreign nationals] and others throughout the Dallas and Oklahoma areas during a three-day enforcement action which ended June 3,” the statement said.
According to ICE, 62 of those arrested originally came from Mexico, three from El Salvador, and one from each of the following countries, Cuba, Guatemala, Korea, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka.
“Of all those arrested, six were females and 64 were males ranging in age between 18 and 50 years old,” the release continued.
“The [foreign nationals] arrested during this operation who have outstanding orders of removal, or who illegally re-entered the United States after being deported, are subject to immediate deportation after they complete any standing prison sentences imposed after their criminal convictions. Other [foreign nationals] arrested during this operation were entered into removal proceedings, or are currently pending travel arrangements for removal in the future,” ICE claimed in the release.
FROM UNITED WAY OF LAMAR COUNTY PRESS RELEASE:
“I started fights in school on purpose, so I would be in too much trouble to go on the field trip. I knew my parents didn’t have the $3 for the field trip and I was too embarrassed.”
“I felt so lonely. I was sitting by myself at work, knowing that my family was depending on that check. But when I got home, my family kept talking about what else had happened that week, and I felt left out. Even in my home, I felt isolated and alone in the world.”
This week, the United Way of Lamar County was invited to join Paris ISD in their end of the year professional development exercises. In this half-day experience, we conducted a poverty simulation that takes participants through a month in the life of a low-income family. Family groups are assigned roles to play and must work to keep their children safe, families fed, and housing and utilities paid.
With volunteers taking on the roles of case workers, bankers, employers, pawn shop employees and many others, the experience usually begins with nervous laughter and the air of it being a fun game. By the third and four weeks of the simulation though, the participants are panicked and near tears, frustrations reaching new highs as they feel a barraged of emotions tied to the chaos and stress of the situations.
Families are evicted from their homes, utilities are shut off, abandoned and neglected children are removed from their homes, and there are long lines to pay bills, cash checks, and search for employment or social services. Stress. The word pops up at the end of each simulation, being the cornerstone of the experience.
In the Paris ISD, the amount of children living in poverty reaches to 94% in some schools, but has an average of over 70%. The children and their families living day to day through these hardships and these affected students are walking the halls and filling the classrooms of our schools. Through these simulations, teachers and administrators are seeing how they can be a part of the solution to bringing these children’s lives out of the chaos with added attention, empathy and resources, reinforcing the importance of education as a mechanism to break the cycle of generational poverty in our communities.
“Day to day life was overwhelming and stressful. After a while, it was just easier to just sit there and watch the world pass by me. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I knew it would be coming to an end when the whistle was blown, but the families who are living in poverty – it never ends for them.”
Through our work in the community, building a larger and stronger pool of resources and tools for success, we strive to make the lives of Paris and Lamar County residents better each day.
If you are interested in hosting a poverty simulation for your organization or company or are interested in volunteering, please contact Heather Himes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 903-784-6642.
FROM NL PRESS RELEASE:
An appreciation banquet for North Lamar ISD employees was held Monday night to honor those who make a difference to students and co-workers throughout the year. Superintendent John McCullough and District administrators recognized employees for their years of service to the district, honored those retiring, and presented special awards to those who have gone above and beyond assisting students and colleagues.
Teachers of the Year
Announcing the 2017 North Lamar Teachers of the Year were Lisa Denman, last year’s Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Kenny Sanders, who stepped in for last year’s Secondary Teacher of the Year Dennis Hodgkiss, who was at the state UIL meet. Kelly Moore, eighth grade Language Arts teacher, was named Secondary Teacher of the Year while Wendy Peek, Aaron Parker Elementary third grade English and social studies teacher, was named Elementary Teacher of the Year. Nominees from all six campuses spoke about what teaching has meant to them. Others representing their campuses and who were interviewed for the district’s high honors were Angela Shannon at North Lamar High School, Brittany Moreland at Bailey Intermediate, Cathey Scheffel at Everett Elementary, and Penny Stutsman at Higgins Elementary.
Faculty & Special Awards
Recipients of the district’s special awards were: Maintenance Supervisor Tommy Funderburgfor Auxiliary of the Year; NLHS librarian Debbie Basden for Support Staff of the Year; Stone secretary Launa Doyal for Paraprofessional of the Year; and NLHS Resource English teacher Jacie Vaughn for Special Educator of the Year.
Retiring from the District are (beginning front row left) Larry Beall, Tommy Funderburg, Carol Sherwood and Drethia Parsons; second row, Claire Anderson, Roxan DeRosier, Duanna Ewell and Lesa Bulls; back row, Julie Green, Leslie Ewell, Billy Copeland and Robert George. Not pictured are Marilyn Elmighalajughi, Misty LeFlore, Pam McNabb, Paula McVay and Teresa Williams.
25 years and beyond
Honored and receiving pins for their years of service were: 50 years – Kenny Sanders; 40 years – Vivian Hicks; 30 years – Nancy Beall, Michelle Easton and Carol Newberry; 25 years –Ronnie Lester, Julie McNeece and Angie Pulsar; 20 years – Michelle Brazeal, Wendi Burton, Keith Carpenter, Christi Coe, Sara Hess, Kara Lane, Debbie Manjane, Jackie Moseley, Jeanne Self, Deborah Sherwood and Georgia Thompson.
Fifteen year pins were given to Lisa Archer, Shelly Bivens, Kristen Blanton, Loy Dean Clark, Jenny Davis, Dale Freeman, Kim Johnson, Glynese McNabb, Lindsey Miller, Debbie Moore, Patty Moss, Liz Russell, Kelli Stewart and Cheryl Thrasher.
Receiving 10 year pins were Janet Anderson, Tammy Crutcher, Roxan DeRosier, Jenny Dority, Wendi Fleming, Homer Garner, Miranda Hale, Lacey Jordan, Angelia Kennedy, Melissa LaVoy, Kerri Layton, Pat Mason, Cindy McCully, Renee Noble, Cynthia Pharis, Bailee Ray, Julie Romans, Doil Tingen and Celeste Withers.
Others receiving their 5 year pins were Patricia Arnold, Shawna Brown, Amy Chennault, Laura Christian, Carolyn Hiller, Angela Holdeman, Joel Hutchison, Josh Jordan, Stephen Keenum, Cynthia Koontz, Sherry Kuhl, Rebecca Liesman, Drew McKnight, Marlyn Moore, Lydia Nichols, Lindsay Owen, Rainey Parson, Bill Plumb, Johnnie Powell, Sierra Radford, Jared Reaves, Hailey Sharrock and Linda Tidwell.
FROM PISD PRESS RELEASE:
Michael Rhodes was named Secondary Teacher of the Year and Amy Hooten was named Elementary Teacher of the Year for the Paris Independent School District at the staff recognition reception, an annual event recognizing teaching excellence as well as honoring employees for their years of service. Both will represent Paris ISD in the 2018 Region VIII Education Service Center Teacher of the Year competition.
Prior to entering the field of education, Rhodes was employed as an automobile technician. He is completing his Bachelor of Science degree this year. He began his teaching career at Paris High School in 2012 in automotive technology. During his tenure, Rhodes has taken competitors to the state level in SkillsUSA and earned three state championships. His students’ accomplishments in SkillsUSA include: First year – 1 student was second in district; second at state; Second year – 2 students first and second at district; fourth and sixth at state; Third year – 1 student first and 1 student second at district; 1 student first in state then competed at national level; Fourth year – 5 students first and third at district; 1 tenth and 1 first at state and competed at national level; 5th year – 2 student were first in district, 1 was first at state and will compete at national level; 2 students second in district, 5 students third in district; on student elected as District 5 state officer.
Rhodes embraces the instructional methodologies of Sean Cain’s Fundamental Five. He presents the methodologies and shares what he does with SkillsUSA during department meetings. He has convinced eight teachers to participate. He is co-lead teacher in the department.
Amy Hooten holds a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from TAMU—Commerce. She has taught each of her 23 years at Thomas Justiss Elementary School. She is certified in elementary self-contained, early childhood education, and reading recovery. She is currently a second grade English/Language Arts teacher. She has served on the District Wide Academic Committee, School Effectiveness Team, Grade Level Representative, mentor to student teachers and new co-workers on her grade level, technology mentor, and has presented in-service training for reading strategies. She was the Outstanding Read 180 Educator in 2014.
Hooten has been inspired by a quote by Uri Bronfenbrenner, “Every child needs at least ONE adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” She finds that special child each year. Mrs. Joel Casey was that person to her when she moved to Texas from Minnesota in third grade. She knew at an early age she was meant to be a teacher despite being surrounded by a family devoted to the medical field.
More than 20 years ago, I volunteered my first hour for a local non-profit. At the time, I had no idea the path it would lead me on, but it laid the cornerstone for what I would become.
When I was 25, I made the decision to dedicate my life to public service. I knew the money would not be great. I knew the hours would be long. What I didn’t know was how huge the reward would be.
I spent the next few years working for a large Oklahoma non-profit, Oklahoma State University, and the state of Texas. Then I arrived here, at Lamar County Human Resource Council. When I was offered the job as executive director, I screamed, I yelled, I jumped but if I’m being honest I had no idea what I was getting into.
I’m not going to lie, the first few months were scary and bumpy but before the end of my first year I settled into a groove, and I knew this was where I was meant to be.
The agency has been lucky these last three years, growing more and more as each year passes. We are serving more seniors and disabled individuals than we ever have before. In fact, the number has nearly double from when I started. In the for profit world that means dollar signs; to me that means fear. The senior population is at an all time high and by 2020 it’s expected to significantly increase. My job is to serve every single person in need — every person that needs a meal. Find the money. Somewhere. But what if the money isn’t there? What if the money we have been counting on is gone. Then what? How do we serve every single senior living in hunger?
This is the current threat I face, but I’m not facing it alone. The people we serve, our board, staff and volunteers are there with me, searching for a way to keep people fed.
Non-profit’s are used to possible budget cuts but this one seems more real, more of a threat. Why? Its not just a proposed budget cut. It’s not the funding that bothers me. Its someone, who doesn’t see what I see, standing on a hill, saying We Don’t Matter.
That led me to this point. We matter. We are screaming from the rooftops. We do matter. I matter. The staff matters. The board matters. Our volunteers matter. Every donor and sponsor matters. But most importantly, the people we serve matter. The more than 1,000 people we serve hot meals to five days a week. They matter.
So this campaign, this letter, it isn’t about money. It’s about us. Everyone of us, those that would lose their jobs, those that would have to volunteer elsewhere, those that could no longer donate to Meals on Wheels, lastly and most importantly those who will go hungry. These meals mean something to every single one of us.
I am standing up. I’m speaking out. I’m calling on you to join me, not just May 5, not just by wearing blue, not just by coming out Friday night, but every single day from this point forward, to show Washington that We Matter.
Lamar County Human Resource Council