I recently traded texts with someone who knew a Teacher, who knew a Mom, who desperately wanted a computer for her Son. For the family, buying a computer was out of the question. I still had this late 2013 Imac on which I had installed Linux Mint, sitting in the corner, waiting to be given away. I told the Teacher, I had this modified Apple computer, that used Linux as an operating system and works almost the same Windows. The Teacher said the family was thrilled at the idea of having a computer.
The main recipient of the computer I was told was an eight year old boy. His Mom would be the computer Administrator. I created a second account for the boy as a standard user. This means he can use the computer, but is not able to make any system wide changes. In short, he can not break anything. I installed all the Child’s Educational Programs I could locate. I added about thirty simple games. I also put some browser links on for educational sites, and a YouTube redirect web browser add on.
Arrangements were made to meet with the Teacher, and follow her to the family’s home. I met the the Mother at the door and liked her immediately. I could tell she was excited for her son. She had said, the Teacher told me, her children were graduating high school and going on to college. That comment did not hinder my liking her as we said hello and almost shook hands.
I felt a little awkward being in a strangers home, in a face mask, explaining how to use a computer to an eight year old boy. He told me it had, “...been a while since he used a computer”. I thought at eight years old, how long could it have been? We had a minor issue getting a wireless connection to the Internet. It was a, “bandwidth problem”, the boy declared.
To his little brother’s dismay, he turned off the family’s X-Box and paused a streaming movie. We attempted to connect to the Internet once again, and were connected within seconds. The X-Box and movie were started again, and all was well, the Internet now working as intended. I was impressed with this little boy as I had thought perhaps the walls were too solid or the distance to the router too far.
I expected the Boy to be excited over getting a computer. Excited I discovered, was putting it mildly. His face was one big grin with two eyeballs above it. I was more surprised when the computer and Internet were connected, the first thing he wanted to do was connect to his classroom. I showed him how to connect to his classroom. He logged in and made sure everything in his “Classroom” was how it should be. He didn't ask about games, or anything online, his main concern was connecting to his classroom.
I asked the Boy about his School issued Chromebook. He reached into a drawer and took out an ancient Chromebook that his school had given him to use. He said it shuts down about every two minutes and has to be restarted. As I looked first at the Chromebook folded up and then at the screen when opened and turned on, I wondered if its shutting down made any real difference?
It was obvious to me, the disparity of a quality education depending on which part of any city you live in. I doubt there is a school issued Chromebook even half that old in the wealthier parts of town. It is sad, how much students going to school in poor neighborhoods have to struggle and overcome to be equal in the school system.
One saving grace in our poorer schools is the quality of the Teachers. They teach in poor schools because they want to, because they want to make a difference and they care. The icing on the cake however, is having Parents like this little boy’s Folks, who understand the importance of an education. Parents like these are few and far between. Usually these Parents are too busy working to put much importance on their child’s education.
The ‘new’ Minty-Imac was placed on top of a couple of upside down storage tubs. Two stacked tubs and a chair were the “classroom”. That was all there was. The Boy wasn’t bothered by his classroom. However, I did not see driving the mouse on a two inch edge ridge of a storage box as okay. As I left the little boy was still smiling so big. I was surprised he could still talk. He gave me several thank yous, two fist bumps followed by at least three handshakes. I am sure a hug would have been next if I stayed any longer.
I mentioned the storage box “desk” when I was home telling my story. The Boss decided the Boy’s family needed a small desk to do homework and keep the Minty-Imac on. We went out and purchased a small folding table that would work well as a computer desk. It is surprising how many kids do not have a desk to call their own for their for these online classes. Small things like a school desk, many of us would take for granted are impossible for some Parents to provide for their Children.
Back in Boy’s home, school desk in hand, I learned the little boy was more normal than I gave him credit for. He had questions. When he went to YouTube, there was this block (YouTube redirect browser add on). Also he couldn't figure out how to connect to Netflix, or play some games he saw advertised on television.
I did not wish to tell him that he could do these things, as it was not my purpose to turn an eight year old boy loose on the Internet. What I did do was tell him he was using Linux Mint and not Windows, so some of the games were not available to him. As to Netflix, I suggested the family needed a Netflix account and let it go at that.
I know there will be some hand holding as the weeks go by. The Mother is an occasional computer user turned administrator. What will keep the hand holding to minimum is the Mother is very smart, and caught on quickly to what she needs to do. It is a pleasure for me to be able to help a family like this. Sometimes little things are lifesavers. Time will tell in this case.
All families have their priorities and their children’s education is usually close if not on the top of the list of importance. Unfortunately, finances often hold a family back. A little help, in this case a free computer and a desk can be life changing for both Children and their Parents.
My take away from my experience is this. I had a software expired Imac, that Apple would prefer to be sent to the dump. A little boy now has a school desk and a computer and is so happy, I doubt Santa Claus showing up in person on Christmas Eve would add to his happiness. The Mom is grateful, and proud her Son has one more tool to help secure the future she dreams of for him.
Sharing my few moments in this boys life may change his life completely. At least in the moment, he is the equal of any boy he knows or can think of. He has a computer and he has his own school desk. I believe this is a feeling that can not be bought, but can be triggered by anyone in an act of caring and kindness in the lives of others.
Once all the tinsel and ornaments are removed from our life, it is not what we have that gives us real happiness and contentment, it is what we do for others. Things we have in our life bring temporary happiness. Doing for others is a rewarding and simple thing with lasting happiness. Helping doesn’t have to cost anything other than a little of our time. Right now we have more time than ever. All we need to do is share a little of us. No matter what we do, there is someone who can use our help.
I can not think of anything I have done this year that equals the impact I made for this one family. All it took from me was a few hours of my time, and less than $25.00 for a keyboard and mouse. Sharing and giving are two things that make life valuable. Things do not create happiness in themselves. The satisfaction I feel when I am able do something for someone else who has a real need, is often life changing for both of us.