"So like, what do you win?" a student in my class pessimistically asked last week.
My jaw fell to the floor. I was speechless. Some students raised their eyebrows, others snickered, and a few patiently waited for my witty comeback. Mista always has a witty comeback, they think. Any student in my class will tell you that it's damn near impossible to get the last word with me. But I was stupefied. This kid got me.
Of course, I was speechless because I had just finished explaining the concept of raising money for charity.
More specifically, I was explaining why most of the male staff and some male students were growing moustaches for the month of November (i.e. Movember). I had pulled up our team page on the SMARTBoard and was going through all the contributions people had made from around the world. It was a proud moment for me. Well, until the "what do you win?" question. What the fuck do you mean, what do you win? Thank goodness for brain-to-mouth filters.
Over the past twelve days, I've felt like most of the students in my school just don't get the concept of charity. Maybe it's an urban youth thing, but in my limited experience bringing up Movember, their first instinct has been to ask, "You runnin' a scam?" or "How I know you ain't just gonna pocket all dat bread?"
After explaining the legitimacy of the charities involved, these questions are usually followed up with the statement, "Well, I would pocket dat shit." My kids are too honest, not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
When I was young enough to be in elementary school, my parents and I would often go to Woodfield Mall in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg on Saturday afternoons to shop and waste time. Woodfield Mall, at the time, was probably the largest shopping center in the Chicagoland area. My father could never save money, my mother loved spending my father's money, and the only way my parents could show me love was by buying me video games. Woodfield Mall and my family were a match made in heaven.
On the way to Woodfield Mall, right before the left turn on Higgins Road, there was always a homeless man dressed in rags holding up a sign that said something depressing about his situation. Every single time we would drive by this homeless man, I begged my parents to give the poor guy some change. After much crying, I usually convinced my dad to give the guy a dollar, and this made me feel better. At least he can go buy something from McDonalds, I thought.
My mother still brings up the time I tried convincing them to go to Foot Locker and buy the homeless guy a pair of new sneakers. Of course, she's laughing when she brings this up. This irritates me. I know the only reason my mom donates anything is because Islam requires a 2.5% wealth contribution every year and she's pretty religious. What's the point of doing something good if your heart isn't into it? We take away intrinsic motivation whenever we make something a requirement.
I often relate to my students' upbringing: many of them did not have positive role models in their life to "show them the way." I grew up emotionally stunted, but something in me burns when I see someone in need. There are a few students in my school who are growing up with a familiar case. These diamonds in the rough just need guidance.
One such diamond is Arnold. Arnold was the first student on board with the cause. Since we've started, he's sent e-mail blasts and Facebook updates about the Movember campaign. As of right now, he's raised more money than some of the staff, which is simultaneously impressive and sad. His enthusiasm and dedication is both contagious and noteworthy. So keep it up Arnold. You won't regret it. You might not win anything in the physical sense, but sir, you have won my respect.