Nine months ago, we left home with an incomplete itinerary, a leaky roof, and a few cans of veggies we’d grabbed on our way out the door. We had one dog, six sleeping bags, and a mural of the country in which all the states were white.
In 270 days on the road, we’ve traveled 26,063 miles, visited 52 schools and handed out roughly 23,000 books. We’ve used 800 bathrooms, patched the roof, and now have two dogs (go figure).
One school at a time, our host educators have painted in the states. Now we’re done, except for Alaska, which is where we’re heading next.
Every kid in every school we visited got a hardcover book and a “reading buddy” teddy bear from Build-A-Bear Foundation. They had what we hope was an exciting and memorable day—attending an assembly, seeing our bus, and petting our dogs.
Our hope is that the kids will read their books, that they’ll harness their own power to create, that they’ll see their full capacity and reach for it.
But however much the tour might have accomplished, it’s not nearly enough. There’s still plenty these kids don’t have. Many don’t get enough to eat, lack warm clothes, and come to school exhausted from caring for siblings.
Others have significant trauma, untreated mental health issues, or complicated living situations that make learning difficult.
We can’t help with these things. Not directly, at least. Addressing these problems is up to society, which is to say it’s up to all of us.
Chances are, there’s a Title I school just down the street from you that could use some volunteers. There are teachers badly in need of classroom supplies. There’s an election in the fall. Find out how the candidates stand on funding schools, how they stand on addressing poverty. These are things you can do to help the kids who have less, whose lives are a struggle, whose futures are our legacy.
What a remarkable nine months it has been. This country is beautiful and complex—its landscapes, its ideals, and mostly, its people. (Look at all the colors and textures on that tapestry!) But there’s work to be done and decisions to make and many miles yet to travel.
Here we go.