I’d give it away

If I had a million dollars to give away, who would I give it to? That’s a question I think about daily. Not that I’m obsessed with wealth, mind you. Having more money that I need would be nice, but I like to believe I would give to as many people and causes as I could even if I never made more than just enough to get by. Beyond dreaming about what I would do if I earned millions, my answer is crystal clear: I would give to education because it’s a deeply personal cause. Coming from a family of educators, I can’t think of a better way to honor my parents than by supporting the cause they dedicated their lives and careers to. So, if I ever become the billionaire blogger of my dreams, I know would also become an educational philanthropist.

Where would I donate my millions?

As I dream, let’s explore three remarkable organizations I’d be thrilled to support.

  1. DonorsChoose.org: This organization is like the Amazon wishlist for teachers. DonorsChoose.org connects donors with classrooms in need, allowing educators to request specific resources for their students. You can fund anything from art supplies to science equipment, and it’s all about direct impact. You’ll know exactly where your money is going and who it’s helping, making you feel like a superhero without the uncomforable tights.
  2. NoKidHungry.org: Education is about more than books and pencils; it’s also about ensuring kids have the energy to learn. No Kid Hungry works tirelessly to end child hunger in America by connecting children with nutritious food where they live, learn, and play. You’re not just feeding bellies; you’re feeding young minds, providing a strong foundation for their educational journey.
  3. Utah Afterschool Network: Afterschool programs play a crucial role in a child’s overall development. They offer a safe and enriching environment for students after the final school bell rings. The Utah Afterschool Network is dedicated to supporting and improving these programs, ensuring that kids continue to learn and grow in a fun and stimulating atmosphere. Because, let’s face it, learning doesn’t stop when the school day ends!

Donating to these organizations strengthens education communities in a variety of unique ways. When I donate, I’m not just handing over a check; I’m investing in the future of countless students.

Would I really donate?

Not to brag, or boast, or stroke my ego, but I know I will donate to education if I ever had a million dollars to give away because I already use my own money to supply classrooms with additional tools to engage students. I buy snacks to help feed hungry students. I support our aftershool programs that reach so many students who need safe places to continue and expand their learning after regular school hours. I donate to local DonorsChoose fundraising campaigns to support the local schools. I can only dream of doing more when I earn and save more money.

I might not have my million-dollar earnings in hand just yet, but when it comes to supporting education, my heart and wallet are wide open. What’s a million dollars compared to the priceless impact it can have on the minds and futures of our youth? 

Good Citizens

You won’t know them
From their flying flags
From stickers
Placed on monster trucks
Or shouted loyalty slogans



You will find them
Comforting the distressed
Soothing the sick
Feeding the famished
Aiding the poor
Protecting the vulnerable
And educating the innocent

It lives in their heart
It refines their mind
It edifies their soul

They don’t seek the spotlight
They don’t chase fame
They don’t lust for praise

They simply love
And they love simply

Patriotism isn’t a performance
Patriotism is affinity and affection for all

Winter’s Arrival

“Looks like

She holds steamy mug
with both hands.
The scene from the
warm white-light
framed picture window
warns of winter’s
western approach.

Patches of pink
mingled with 
blue, black and
billowing clouds
reflect sun’s glow
as it crosses
beneath horizon.

“How much
do you think
will fall?”

“Forecast says six
to eighteen inches.”

He doesn’t bother
looking up
from book
when he speaks.
He has become 
accustomed to this ritual.
He reads 
his stories 
as he sits
in comfortable
recliner kids
gifted him
upon retirement.

She stands
at window and watches
stories unfolding
on street just steps
from their
cozy front room.

He listens
to participate
in dear wife’s

to cover 
those weeds,
I hope.”

She lifts her chin
as she looks
at tousled track
of land next door.
Subtle hints of contempt
invade the normally
sweet strain of 
her soothing voice.

“It makes 
the rest
of the us
look so
so trashy.”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

He is tempted 
to say more,
what’s the point?
Expressing true thoughts
surely leads
to injured affections.
The remainder
of the evening
would be uncomfortably
…and quiet.

Easier to
mumble approval
and continue
on his stories.
He enjoys
white noise
his wife provides
as mind escapes
into his stories
in precious books.

of snow.
I hope roads
are clear.
I hate the thought 
of kids traveling
in bad weather.”

“They’ll be fine.”

This time
he looks up
from book
to observe
winter scene 
and swirling outside.

“They’ll be fine.
We’ll have 
a great Christmas

Missed the first part? Check it out here: Three houses. Up next: Bless This Mess.

The Christmas I Regret

“Is there anything more I can get you?” the server asks after placing the large plate in the middle of our table.

“No thanks,” we say simultaneously.

“Your main dishes should be ready soon.”

We wait for the server to leave before we begin dividing appetizers between the six of us. Eating keeps us silent for several minutes.

“So,” Amber finally speaks. “Who’s hosting the Christmas party this year?”

A few shrugs are the only response as we continue eating.

“I think we should do something different this year,” I speak up.

The idea came to me when he walked past me at Jolley’s Drug Store a week ago. He looked at me momentarily before directing his familiar green eyes to his shabby boots. I knew I recognized that red hair pulled back into a single, long braid and the freckles, but I wasn’t sure why. His name finally came when I found his single portrait in my senior yearbook.

“What if we give somebody Christmas this year instead of having a party?”

“Have somebody in mind?” Luke asks. He nibbles on a chicken wing and then licks hot sauce from his lips.

“Stevie Barker,” I say between bites of mozzarella sticks.

I wait for conversation. Instead, my friends help themselves to more appetizers. 

“Stevie Barker,” I repeat. “He went to Valley View, but he’s a year younger than us.”

“I know him,” Luke says before slurping soda through a straw. He looks around the room, holding his glass above his shoulders. “Server’s never around when you need a refill.”

“Stevie Barker,” Crystal says. “That loner kid? The one who stayed at school all day? Until the janitors kicked him out each night?”

“One and the same,” Luke says.

Attention returns to food instead of us discussing my proposal. 

“I remember him,” Brian speaks up. “Didn’t his younger brother–”

“Shoot himself,” Luke says. “Um, Yeah.”

“Oh,” Amber sounds surprised. She munches on her appetizer then clears her throat and says “this artichoke dip is amazing.”

“Stevie found him,” Luke says. “The body. After…”

I look around the table, and eyes avert to plates or random corners of the restaurant. 

“I saw him the other day,” I say. “I think he rents a room in the old Harper House.”

“The halfway house?” Crystal asks.

“For the underemployed.” I nod my head.

“And druggies,” Luke says.

More silence.

“Why should we give him Christmas?” Luke asks.

“I don’t know. Just felt bad when I saw him. He looked so alone.”

“He has family,” Luke says. “His parents are still alive. They live down the street from mine.”

“I know. It’s just–I don’t know–he looked like he could use some help.”

“So what?” Luke says. “He has family. Less than five miles away. Family first, I always say.”

“He’s practically homeless,” John joins the conversation. “Maybe we should–“

“By choice,” Luke starts getting annoyed. “If he wants help, he should go to his parents. We didn’t pay attention to him when we were in high school. He wouldn’t know us from Adam. I think he would be embarrassed if we gave him Christmas.”

The six of us look at each other. 

  “You can do what you want, but my charity will go somewhere else.” Luke rattles the ice in his glass. “Where is our server?”

Two servers come with trays of sizzling fajitas, prime rib, steaming baked potatoes, and seafood pasta. They refill our glasses as our conversations switch to work and family holiday plans. We more than we should but leave room for overly-sweet desserts.

“Okay, okay,” Crystal says. “I’ll host a party. What night’s good for everyone?”

February 14, 20…

I settle into my annual single’s awareness night of salty snack, soda, and television. My cell phone lights up.

You should read today’s Obituaries. So sad. – Crystal

I scroll through the website until I find the name:

Steven James Barker

I clickand read the pithy tribute.

Steven James Barker left us on February 9.

His parents and sisters loved him completely.

We wish he believed us.
We miss him.

The Grasshopper and the Ant

The Grasshopper spent all summer long
Performing for friends her festive song.
When winter wind began to bite,
Not one humble morsel was within sight.
No beetle, no fly, no trifling grub;
Just famished, barren bellies for her to rub.

She wailed to the Ant concerning her mess,
Of encountering her cupboards with so much less
Than what her neighbor claimed for storage.
“Perhaps you can spare some of your forage,”
The Grasshopper invoked a meager handout.
“Just enough to outlast this wintry bout.”

The Ant was disinclined to be so charitable
And impart spare food from his bounteous table.
“You chirped all summer from morning to night;
Am I to nourish you in your blight?”
The Ant ordered his neighbor to go her way
And languish through what she brought to bay.

Author’s Note: I wrote this fable into a poem for a book of emergency lesson plans I helped compile with a teacher friend, Michelle Clark several years ago. What was surprising, after testing the lesson plan that accompanied this poem was the discussion students had about personal responsibility vs. charity. It was one of the happy accidents that resulted from this project.

You can get a copy of A Likely Story at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.