Written by Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
We made the kids from The Sandlot movie look uptown. When we left in the morning, we never knew where we would wind up or when we would return, but those were the days when stores paid a dime for discarded pop bottles, and a quarter bought a snack, so we lived like kings. Street urchins might have been a better description, and as such we made Muskogee, Oklahoma our playground. For some reason, adults never seemed happy to see us and frequently chased us away, even on the rare occasion we were behaving properly. We travelled light, without food, cash, or supplies, but the one thing we always needed was water because it was usually summertime, and this was long before people bought and carried water bottles. Two occasions still stand out to me, when we were so thirsty that we did the unthinkable: we asked nicely.
I could sense the elderly lady’s fear as she caught us crouched over the green water hose near her flowerbed. We were so thirsty that instead of our usual impertinence, we humbly asked if we could drink from her faucet. But instead of being cursed, chased, and reported to the authorities, she asked us if we wanted some ice water. Never in my life, before or since, have I tasted such cold, clean water. Instead of stolen rubber-hose water, we drank two glass pitchers of Alpine spring water in a shaded garden. Needless to say, her property was miraculously protected from mishap from that day forward, even on Halloween.
On the second occasion, we wandered into a strange neighborhood near the fairgrounds. As thirsty as we were, we dared not access unknown water hoses. The only neutral place we could find was a small industrial office, so we took our chances to ask inside for a water fountain. We were always ready to run, but instead, the man inside did the unthinkable – ice cold Pepsi’s for us all! We were so thankful we did not even steal the empty bottles for the deposit. I do not remember anything else about those two days. Heck, I don’t even remember who was with me (except of course, my lifelong friend and childhood hero Toby Dawn McIntyre), but as long as I live, I will feel the crystal chill of that water and the sweet burn of that Pepsi on the back of my throat.
It’s funny what we remember from our childhood, but for most of us, I doubt it is a program, a committee, or an election. Two of my most vivid childhood memories involve the unexpected kindness of a cold drink on a hot day, and I suppose that may be the inspiration for The Juice Box Solution. It is a very simple strategy which many churches, businesses, and organizations in Lawton already employ to touch our children’s lives in small, personal ways. It will not fix our state’s finances or solve the teacher shortage, but I am afraid that those challenges are here to stay. What we can provide schools with right now, however, are constant touches of encouragement from people in our community. It’s the simple things that give us the greatest strength, like cool drinks on a hot day. Of course, hot chocolate might be a better fit right now, but next week, I will share a little more about The Juice Box solution, so please don’t jump into gear just yet. It is simple but long-term, yet it can transform our community for generations to come. So as you pray for the safety of our schools this second Sunday of the month, please think back to the small things that made your childhood special. Our children still need the same touches, and those touches can only come from people like you.