Southeast Missouri State University student publication

The Long lens: Nov. 14, 2017

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

When I was young, I remember asking my mom if we were poor.

Rachael Long, author

I know now that we grew up in a middle-class home and lived comfortably. But back then, my sweet mom always answered with words that eased my irrational 7-year-old fears about our finances.

“Honey, we’re rich in love.”

Flash forward a decade and a half, and I’m singing a different tune, one of a college student living paycheck to paycheck and barely making enough money to get by.

It’s so common to hear college kids describe their financial state with words like “I’m so poor” or “I’m broke.”

But most of us will spend next week with our families, seated around a dinner table complete with a Thanksgiving meal. Most of us will complain about how full we are, how we wouldn’t dare take another bite for fear we’d be sent straight into a “food coma.”

Most of us will sit around that table and talk about all the things we’re thankful for, and then spend the very next day in a shopping frenzy, concerned only with getting the best doorbuster deals and being first in line at Best Buy.

Most of us will have roofs over our heads, beds to sleep in and a place to call home for the week.

But some won’t.

Some are families who live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to get by and put food on the table for their children. Some don’t even have a table, a roof or a bed. Some are alone during the holiday season.

As we sit around our dinner tables next week — poor college students though we might be — we ought to remember Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all we have to be thankful for.

For me, it’s two loving parents who have always believed in me and pushed me to be my best. It’s a sister who was my first best friend in this life and who has been through hell and back, but is stronger than ever. It’s the place we call home and the silly but sweet traditions we’ve made together over the years.

And the older I get, the more I realize I have all I need. When Christmas comes around, I struggle to answer my parents’ repeated text messages and phone calls asking, “What should we tell Santa to get you this year?”

(Yes, the Santa thing lives on at my house. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Even still, brightly-wrapped gifts appear under a glowing tree each year, and I’m always transported back to the childhood excitement of Christmas morning.

Some children have never known a Christmas morning like that. One that children everywhere wait 364 days in anticipation for each year is just another December morning for so many others.

According to ABC News, more than 800,000 children in the United States come in contact with the foster care system each year. Who is responsible for making sure those children have gifts under the tree?

Currently there are more than 300 foster children in the Southeast Missouri region. Ensuring a happy Christmas for these children is possible through an Arrow service project sponsored by First State Community Bank called “Shoeboxes of Caring.” The project asks people to donate new and packaged items that will help provide Southeast Missouri-area foster children with gifts to open on Christmas morning.

Collection times will run through Nov. 30, and drop off points are located all over our main campus in places like Kent Library, Towers Hall and the Student Recreation Center. Donation bins were also placed at some of our regional campuses in Sikeston, Malden, Poplar Bluff and Kennett.

For those college kids who are just making it, maybe it’s no small gesture to buy an extra gift. But it could be the only gift waiting under the tree for a child this Christmas, and that could make all the difference.

That’s what it means to be rich in love.

For more information on the Shoeboxes of Caring, contact Sydney Rodgers at