Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank you to the late Jim Rogers

I apologize for the long delay in postings. So very much has happened over the last few months and I have struggled with what to say and what not to say. So instead of going into the sordid story about my 2nd ex-husband and how it all came to be, I'd rather get it back up to date with other posts first.

Who will be the next Jim Rogers?

If you don't know who Jim Rogers is please keep reading. He passed not too recently, but recently enough that I think those that knew him, could appreciate his ability to polarize people, but also to make a good point of what is good for Nevada. He focused his political and philanthropic efforts here in our Valley first as an entrepreneur, then also as a philanthropist and a political activist. He served on the Nevada Board of Regents and at many others stations in the NSHE.

I like the guy. His essence is right on. He may not be here in person, but his spirit still is.
He did the right thing for the right reasons - because it was the right thing to do. He could be, during his time on earth, a rather unpopular individual. Doing what is right and having other people criticize you and even dislike you for it? Sounds pretty badass to me. You might ask, what did this guy do exactly?

Well, he worked hard to help Nevada improve itself, not by just giving money to random people, but to institutions and organizations that made us a better place to live. The Philharmonic...UNLV....many local schools...the list is long.
I will admit, I never met the guy in person. I heard him speak in person at a philanthropy summit here in Las Vegas and of course, I read his name in the papers many times. But I still like the guy and here is why...

His donations account for more than 50% of the donations my daughter's school has received since its inception, just over 20 years ago. I know this because I counted the gold donor plaquettes near their copier in the main hallway. He donated the copier. He donated other equipment. He donated books. He donated money for uses TBD. There is absolutely no glamour in giving to a public school, especially one that meets Title I funding criteria, but is nestled near a 'great' neighborhood in Las Vegas. The point is, no one cared that he donated that stuff (social media is new, he didn't use it to promote himself and all of his good works) but him and the people who received it. No big hoopla, no social media to thank him, no big accolades. Just doing it because it was the right thing to do.

So this letter to the late Jim Rogers, all started in my head as a mental note of gratitude when I started volunteering at the school. On the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month, and during my 'lunch hour', I help Mrs. Bosch's class, which also happens to be where my daughter attends 2nd grade.

When I first walked down the hallway to her classroom, I remembered my very own elementary school experience. That feeling of safety, wellbeing and security that I felt in my own school in Fredonia Arizona flooded my body and it still does, even after several months of volunteering there. When I started Kindergarten, my parents had just separated. I missed my daddy and my dog and my home. I had no idea what divorce was, but I did know how much I loved my teacher, Ms. Goody and I sure liked all of the access to crayons and coloring, the American flag hung above the water fountain and near the loud speaker, the carpet where we did show and tell and of course, all of the fun things we learned. For me, school was a safe place. It meant there was a routine with expectations. There were adults there who cared for me and cared about my wellbeing and safety. There were rules to follow. As I got a little older, probably second or third grade, school also meant that there was food! Yes, there was breakfast and lunch. My friend Sara and I would walk to school early, sometimes while it was still dark, and get to the lunch room before the lunch room even opened. I remember asking one time if I could have two breakfasts because I was so hungry. Of course, when you eat that early, lunch seems like a long way away. I remember watching that clock, waiting for lunch to arrive. Thankfully schools serve breakfast later now, so kids eat before school and have food in their stomachs until lunch. Now, I don't want it to sound like there wasn't food in the cabinets. I don't remember for sure. But there was a reason I got myself up for school and walked to school to eat.

School also meant friends. They meant fun. They meant learning how to jump rope, how to play hopscotch and how to play other childhood games kids learn at school.

I loved loved loved school. It was the one thing that was for sure (except third grade, which was like 3 or 4 schools in two states and three cities...but that is another story). At school I learned academic basics, but I also learned other things I wasn't going to learn at home. It struck me today that I learned how to brush my teeth by watching a video about how to brush your teeth. This happened at school, in elementary school, and thank goodness someone took the time and care to teach me about oral hygiene. My first trip to the dentist was in my early 20's after I worked at a company that had insurance. It seems strange to think of letting my daughter grow up and never taking her to the dentist, or tutoring her on how to brush her teeth, but for some families, those things just aren't going to happen at home, so the next best place to pick them up is the school environment.

I mention safety and stability. At school, my desk was my desk. It had my name on it. It had my stuff in it. It belonged to me (even if it was only five days a week) and I recognize now that having a physical and also a theoretical place in classroom environment, a place to fit in and a place to belong, is pretty important for a kid that doesn't really have a place at home or in a home. Its importance is magnified when one considers that safety and security cannot be got in some home environments. For me, there were many times when I didn't have a bed to sleep on, let alone a room of my own where my stuff was my stuff and I had things that were for sure mine. There were times when we lived with people who had no business having access to us or our personal space. I will leave that comment at that for now. School meant that there was no yelling, no crying, no fearing, no worrying, no anxiety whatsoever. There was no violence at school. There was no abuse at school. There was no silent treatment at school. The list goes on and on and on...

Fast forward to other forms of abuse and neglect, to violence and just plain crappy, crappy, crappy ways to raise kids and for people like me, and for many others, school becomes a safe haven - a place to belong and to a place to shine. Middle and High School, specifically in terms of academics and later athletics, became my outlet. The teachers and administration truly cared about my well being. They wanted me to succeed. They gave me tools to do so - including providing accelerated course work and mentoring. They encouraged me to excel and to continue working hard in all areas of study. They encouraged me to apply for scholarships and to go to college. The counselor stayed late many nights to help a group of us complete essays and fill out applications for scholarships. By the time I graduated from high school, the building and its familiarity, the gymnasium where I played ball, the ball field where I played softball...all of the smiling faces and the kindly people I interacted with there, including some life long friends, made the journey worth while. It was them that saved me, because not everyone who endures what I endured - early on sexual abuse, later, emotional abuse, neglect, at some points hunger and lack of access to proper healthcare and other needs - are able to graduate from high school, graduate from college and become contributing citizens later in life. Thank goodness for schools. Thank goodness for teachers and staff who care. Thank goodness for people who donate to these schools and to their academic and athletic programs so that the people who work there can go above and beyond.

Thank goodness for people who do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.

Thank goodness for Jim Rogers - whom I know has impacted the lives at the school where my own daughter is receiving her elementary education. There are little eyes there that I can see share some of the same haunting stories that mine must have at that age. There are sometimes behavioral outbursts that I see and somehow, know based on experience, that things at home do not qualify as a 'normal' home life. I am glad that people like Mr. Rogers see fit to support the institutions that will bridge many gaps for those young people and provide a safe place for them to spread their wings and hopefully fly.

All of these thoughts and feelings got me to thinking about this late, rebel philanthropist, Jim Rogers. Who will be the next Jim Rogers? Our city, and especially our kids, need someone like him.

Well, I don't have his money, his car collection, or his cool, dark rimmed glasses.  BUT, I know I can be mean and self righteous as hell when I know it counts. I know I can fight when it matters and is right...and I know that what I do in this world makes a difference and  even if we cannot see the immediate effects. I believe in doing the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do. We are alike in that way. So, maybe the next Jim Rogers will not drive a red corvette, but perhaps she will be some Nevada born,  real gritty chick, with dark sunglasses and Tony Lomas and a faith in humanity that never stops.

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I am the original REAL GRITTY WOMAN.