My daughter and I have a boy in our classes, an eighth-grader, who wears the same thing every day. A pair of big baggy pants, a long grimy white t shirt under a huge baggy grey hoodie with a hole in it where he tore the pocket off the other day. His clothes are worn out and dirty. His shoes look huge, but evidently fit him because they are relatively new. His life so far has been similar to his clothes. It’s difficult, a life of abandonment and sadness.
Today I was looking at a Pinterest board of boys’ hairstyles pinned by an acquaintance who lives a comfortable life. She commented that she was thinking of growing her son’s hair out, and had posted a myriad of stylish looks. This idea struck me as odd, and I couldn’t help thinking of our student who no longer has a mother to think about his hair.
He is well liked, very smart and clever. His eyes are always open, and he misses nothing. He is resourceful, as evidenced by the things like pens he manages to acquire from here and there. When he was in seventh grade he made his way through my supply cabinets and carried off everything that looked interesting or useful. This year he’s pretty much controlling his acquisitional urges. He still loves pens, though, and often has one that looks exactly like my favorites.
We like him. And we want to help him. Today my daughter and I talked all the way home from school about how best to help. Should we just buy some clothes and give them to him? Take him shopping? Ask his grandma first, of course, but what then? Will he be ashamed to take the help or will he be thrilled by it? If he had more than one set of clothes would he be able to keep them clean? Would new clothes embarrass him, because he’d look so out of character? Would he want more of what he has, or could he handle a more stylish look? Cargo shorts and Converse tennis shoes, like the other boys wear? How about a pair of those nylon soccer pants with the white stripes down the sides? A university sweatshirt? A fresh haircut? Are we overstepping with the haircut?
We are probably overthinking this. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just ask him these questions. I have a feeling he’ll be open to the help. Maybe even excited about it. Or maybe he’ll say no, thank you. I just hope he won’t be insulted. There’s only one way to find out.