At Be There Dad, the vision embraced by all our dads is that every child will feel the power of presence. Individually, and collectively, we continually ask how we can best serve the children. How can we use our time, talent, and treasure so that the kids may be able to fulfill their potentials? Sometimes the answers are obvious, sometimes they are not. During the continuing pandemic, the questions and answers have been perplexing. So, we continue to think outside the box as the children are confronted with new and different challenges. This year, engagement at schools may not be as simple as showing up to direct carpool line or read in classrooms like we have in the past. As dads we are trying to adapt to changing circumstances and changing needs requiring unique solutions. We need to find ways to “be there” even when we may not be present physically. The kids still need us.
Since the children returned to classrooms this fall there has been widespread concern about the spread of the COVID-19 virus as well as the variants. Medical professionals have informed us of the risks of people gathering inside in groups and passing the virus through the air; so, they have suggested masking and social distancing. In school settings, it seems that finding ways to keep the air as clean as possible also helps prevent the spread. Effectively operating heating and air conditioning systems and air purifying units help. But many schools do not have the resources to renovate their air handling systems or purchase air purifying units for the classrooms.
Like always, Be There Dad seeks to “run to daylight”. We asked how we could help. The suggestion was air purifiers in classrooms.
In all our engagements, Be There Dad asks if our involvement will make a difference for the children. So, we ask:
Will the purifiers remove unhealthy contaminants from the classroom air?
Will the teachers be less anxious and less distracted?
Will the parents feel better about the safety of their children while in the classroom?
Will adult volunteers feel safer about returning to the classrooms to work with the students?
Will the children be less apprehensive about entering the classrooms and be better able to focus on their schoolwork?
We think the answer to all these questions is yes. So, we said, “why not?”
Air purifiers. A line of defense against unwanted germs. Isn’t that what dads do? Haven’t we encouraged our dads to be gap soldiers? To stand in the forefront and defend the children from “enemies” until they can fend for themselves? In a broader sense, aren’t dads charged with the responsibility to filter what might be harmful to our children? Whether it is germs in the air, information on social media or talk on the playground; don’t our children look to us to protect them and help them understand what is true, what is good, what is not, and how to address it all? I like to believe that dads are the ones who can help clear the air so our children can see the path before them. So, air purifiers. They seem like a good fit.
Recognizing this gap, Be There Dad used our “treasure” to make some students safer. From the generous donations of our supporters, we were able to financially underwrite the effort of a local church to donate air purifiers for every classroom in a nearby elementary school. We are particularly thrilled knowing that funds to support the purifying units came from several sources – from a church, corporations, and individuals. From as far away as Oklahoma, supporters have made an impact on students in Mecklenburg County. We are privileged to be the stewards of that support. Those children may never know who provided the clean air, but they will feel the power of presence just the same.
In the past, we have encouraged our dads to poke holes in the darkness and let the light shine in. In a current world full of virus and unknown darkness, perhaps each well-placed unit will poke a hole in that darkness and let good air flow through. Looking a bit like an army of R2D2s, perhaps these 33 droids can stand in until our dads return. They can go ahead where volunteer dads cannot yet go and do what dads cannot yet do.
We Need versus I Want
In an interview about the importance of preserving our National Parks, Ken Burns noted filmmaker and historian made a statement that is particularly relevant to this time. He said that as Americans we must continue to focus on what “we need” rather than what “I want”. When we lose that perspective, we will lose the spirit of this country [and perhaps our humanity]. Maybe in this case, preserving the atmosphere in classrooms and making the air cleaner for everyone is focusing on what “we need.” Some who helped to make this donation possible will never breathe the purified air in that school, yet they will find comfort in knowing they answered their broader calling to love our neighbors.
This school year, principals, teachers, and the children will continue to need our support in new and different ways. Dads in schools everywhere will ask, “How can we help?” I am confident they will find the answers that benefit the kids; and dads will have the courage to engage them.
I dream of things that never were and ask, “why not”.