Sometimes You Don't Get To Choose

Apr 17, 2017

I happen to be particularly careful when buying containers of strawberries.

My method is always the same: Pick up the container, check the top for bruises and mold, then both sides, then the bottom. Sometimes, I will go through five or six containers before I find one that’s acceptable. And on a rare occasion, I never do find one worth buying, so I walk away empty handed.

Now imagine this scenario: Next time you go to a produce section, there are store employees sprinkled amongst the fruit and vegetable displays. You go to examine a container of strawberries, but the nearest employee steps in your way, and hands you a container and says, “You have to take this container.” After the shock wears off, you respond, “No, I’m not taking that container without first inspecting it!” The employee stands her ground, and says, “I’m sorry, but if you want strawberries, you will have to take this container.”

You then choose to raise holy hell with the employee, her manager and anyone else who will listen. But they won’t budge. It’s either that container of strawberries or no strawberries. At this point, though your choices have been narrowed, you still have a choice between taking those berries or walking out.

Now, think of those containers of strawberries as the kids who walk through the doors of our public schools every day.

Our public education system requires that we take that figurative container of kids, no matter how bruised, battered, neglected, well-loved or supported they are. We are obligated to take them. And that obligation is the single greatest strength in our system. Anything less is a disservice to the most vulnerable kids among us.

I’m Andrew Nelson, and that’s my perspective.