One night when I was in second grade, I saw something on the news that really bothered me. It was about a group of homeless people sleeping outside in the cold, with nowhere to go for warmth and comfort. I felt sorry for them, and I wanted to help.
So I decided to start a club. The goal was to raise money to help the homeless. I called it the Rock Club. When I first started, we only had about five members, but that quickly grew to about twenty. It wasn’t hard to get people to join the club. I hardly had to ask anybody if they wanted to be a member. In fact, they came up to me and just asked me if they could join!
We spent all of our free time at recess painting rocks. We painted animals, flowers and shapes – even names of sports teams. We all just worked on whatever we felt like painting.
We’d go around the school in search of teachers who would buy our rocks and use them as paperweights. We sold the rocks for five cents, ten cents and even up to twenty cents each. We painted one huge rock with polka dots that sold for five bucks! By Christmas, we had raised thirty-three dollars. We decided to give the money to a local homeless shelter.
My mom offered to take my friend and me to the shelter to deliver the money. When we pulled up, we noticed that there were whole families sitting on the snowy sidewalk. As we went into the building, I could not get the picture of what I had just seen out of my mind. I kept thinking about the little children, and all of the men and women with nowhere to sleep.
When we got inside, we met the lady at the front desk and gave her the money that the club had earned. She seemed really grateful for our donation. She invited us to take a tour of the shelter. I had never seen a real homeless shelter before, so I wanted to see the inside. As we toured the building, what really got to me were the rows and rows of tables set up to feed the hungry. There must have been over one hundred tables in there. In the kitchen, the helpers were making what seemed like endless rows of gingerbread men. It was amazing to me that for every gingerbread man, the shelter was expecting a person in need for dinner and shelter that night.
As we were leaving the homeless shelter, I saw a man sitting on the snow-covered pavement. He was wearing a dirty, dark green coat and black pants that were covered in mud. He was clutching to his side a Christmas tree covered with red ornaments. I felt so sorry for him because he had nowhere else to put a tree except the streets where he lived. It made me realize that even someone with no home, or money for presents, still wanted to have a Christmas.
The next day there was picture of that same man in the newspaper. I knew his image would stay with me forever. I hoped that his picture also reminded others about how much help the homeless people need, and that we should remember them all year – not only at Christmas.
A few days later, a newspaper reporter and a photographer came to our school and took a picture of our Rock Club members. The photo and article came out in the paper the next day. We all felt proud that we had done something that gave more attention to the needs of the homeless in our town.
Our school decided that what we did was really great, so they started a program just for kids. Now kids at our school are helping the homeless shelter and other organizations that help people in need.
Something as simple as some rocks, some paint and a few caring kids made me realize that you’re never too young – and you don’t need much – to make a difference.
by Vanessa Clayton, age 14