Humbled by a Generous Student

During the remaining days of December, the darkest days of the year, I’ll be posting reflections on lessons of kindness I have learned from others. Here’s the first in the series.


The school where I teach holds a food drive each November. Like many schools, we hope a simple event like a food drive will help students see their abundance and their responsibility for others. This year, I was especially moved by something I saw one of my students do. I’ll call this student W. W is a student whose family has very little. Having met his family, I know some of their struggles. This student is one of our student-poets so I speak with him often. This year, as a high school senior, he has even taken a job working nearly every day after school to assist his family. He has younger siblings and his parents both work too. But in America, two jobs is often not enough.

One day during the food drive, I saw this student carrying in several bags of canned and other non-perishable foods. He was putting his bags, kind of quietly, into the classroom’s collection box. He didn’t see me observing him. My first thought was that this student should be the beneficiary of the food drive, not one of its contributors. Then about 20 minutes later, I saw him carrying in several more bags of food. We spoke briefly as he put these bags into the collection box. He said he had some extra money and thought this would be a good thing to do.

His action won’t solve world hunger. It won’t solve elder-hunger or child-hunger in Washington, D.C. But it sure melted a frozen part of my heart. This young man, 17 years old, knew he could make a small difference. He knew it. He acted on his knowledge. I felt humbled by his actions. I don’t lack for anything, truly. Yet I had not given as much as he did. He gave from the little he had. I won’t forget his humbling example.



Published by josephrossnet

Poet & Teacher. Author of four books of poetry: Raising King (2020) Ache (2017) Gospel of Dust (2013) Meeting Bone Man (2012)

2 thoughts on “Humbled by a Generous Student

  1. I read this posting second, rather than first, and am totally awed by the content!!! I’m sure you’re well familiar with the quote from Edward Everett Hale: “I cannot do everything, but I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Sending you and Robert our love and best wishes for the Christmas season.


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