When our children were small, some of their friends convinced them that it was a shame that their parents had to pay taxes for public schools since they went to private schools. Our children came home and repeated that as if it were a real crime against these folks who were paying “so much taxes for something they don’t use.”
This sentiment made it from one set of adults to their own children to our children to us. At the time, Lydia was and had been for over a decade a public school teacher, and I was about to change jobs from a private school to a public school. We pondered for a while how to help at least our children understand the problems inherent in this kind of thinking. Finally, it hit me one day in the grocery store. So, I offered this to our children:
Do your friends who go to private school ever shop in the grocery store? Yes. Who helps them check out their groceries? The cashier and bagger. Today, while I was at the grocery store, I saw the bagger boy wearing a local high school t-shirt, and he and the cashier were talking about a rival football game between their two schools. She also goes to a local public high school. Gee. Who taught this cashier to do the math and speak the language and do the thinking she needed to do as cashier? Who taught the bagger simple logic so that he understood that eggs should not go underneath canned goods in the bag? Who taught them to read? For these two, and for most folks, that would be teachers in public schools (in addition to parents, who are always the primary educators of children). Every person who enters the grocery story benefits from the work done there by people who were educated in public schools–whether their own children went to public schools or private, whether they had children or not.
The work that we all do, finally, connects us to each other in ways that we rarely stop to imagine. This is Labor Day. Take a moment. Stop. Imagine how each person you encounter touches and connects to your life. Silently, or out loud, thank them. Thank the Universe for the connections we all share.