As I have been hearing of the countless school districts withholding lunches from children whose parents have delinquent “school lunch” bills, I thought of my own school lunch days. As the eldest of three children reared in a poor home on government commodities, I was thrilled when in the fifth grade I received a gift of becoming a “button girl.”
To be selected as a “button girl or boy” you were recommended by your teacher, as a child that caused no problems in class and possessed a financial need. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, fifth and sixth grade children from poor families were given “chores” to do in exchange for school lunches. As “button children” we handed out “clean plate” buttons to anyone cleaning their plates. At the end of each school year, if a child had received these buttons, they received a reward.
Certainly, I ate every bite of my food, for some days it was the only meal I had for the entire day. In addition to handing out the buttons, I completed chores including washing down blackboards, cleaning the fish tanks and any miscellaneous chores teachers or staff required.
As with poorer children in our present day, I was aware our family was atypical of other families. I sincerely desired to be able to eat a school lunch with the other children. Our packed lunches didn’t have the same delicious sandwiches or special lunch box treats as the other children whose mothers packed theirs. Our home packed meals consisted of sandwiches with white bread from the day-old bread store at 15 loaves for $1.00. The filling was not meat or cheese, but merely government commodity butter or if we were fortunate, a special treat of commodity peanut butter. Never was it a peanut butter and jam sandwich for the jam would have been too costly. There were no chips, fruit or sweet treats; merely a barren sandwich.
Even though the other children realized I was “poor” and had to work for my lunch, for those few brief minutes each day, I could be “one of the other kids.” Our hand-me down clothes from the missionary “clothes barrel” or hand sewn clothes also always set us apart from the other children.
TO BE CONTINUED! II Thessalonians 3:10, NIV “…the one whom is unwilling to work shall not eat.”