The two attractive women inside it had the fully-loaded old pickup truck well under control as it turned south on Dorchester Road. Their five-mile trip would culminate a solid week of one North Charleston neighborhood's women's group quietly and purposefully raising money and shopping for students and teachers they don't know.
This enterprise of care and reassurance is and has been admirably repeated by dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals all over Greater Charleston. We know now that most teachers and too many children need assistance in many forms during the happy days of a brand new school year.
And so we help in large and small ways, gladly and happily.
And maybe we do some conscience-searching along the way, too.
Most of us remember our dedicated teachers; they are our heroes, and we want to be theirs. But as taxpayers, we give teachers about $225 per school year. That's just not enough in most cases; and many teachers supplement classroom operations with their own funds - and very often they kick in some, too, to help children who simply don't have supplies - or adequate food and clothing.
It's an uncomfortable reality: teachers subsidizing their classroom supplies with their own money equates to their paying an insidious tax on their income - and in our state we don't pay teachers enough anyway, especially the good ones.
Or put another way, teachers buying their own classroom supplies are subsidizing us taxpayers. Maybe we ought to be paying more or insisting that school governance reorder priorities.
But those ladies taking that big red pickup down Dorchester Road weren't bothered by such bothersome contemplation. They and their neighbors had responded to a call last week from North Charleston City Councilwoman Dorothy Williams; and now they were off to deliver a mini-mother lode of stuff and cash, happily and with insistence of anonymity.
And they were headed in the right direction.
In his Post and Courier column last Sunday, Brian Hicks said of Burns Elementary, "It's hard to imagine a more worthy cause."
He's right. It's hard, too, to overstate the poverty-driven needs of this 600-student school.
The quality - and voids - of parenting are manifest problems. So are hunger and homelessness. Nearly all of Burns' students are on free or subsidized meal programs.
With so much talk of social services programs throughout South Carolina, we should wonder why a single neighborhood would be menaced by so much poverty - registered upon children very much in need of breaking poverty's depressing grip.
That's a public policy question easily formed.
Its answers are elusive.
The bottom-line message at Burns arches over too many public schools: poverty can drain a young child's self-esteem and confidence.
And self-esteem and confidence are important to children and even teenagers, during back-to-school days when the quantity and quality of school supplies matter - and so do the adequacy and stylishness and fit of clothes. A nice colorful backpack helps, too. We've all been there and done that, right?
And this year, there has been a subliminal campaign to include children's underwear in back-to-school care packages.
In fact, it was the mention of "underwear" that got the old red pickup's load on its way. As one contributor noted: "School supplies for teachers? That, we understand and we should always help our teachers. But when young children need underwear, the basic problem of children-in-need registers poignantly."
The summary point, of course, is that if children are short on underwear, they're probably short on many other things, too, including the enjoyable enthusiasm every child should have for the rites of passage into a new school year.
So, the two nice ladies parked the truck near Burns' front entrance, the school staff came eagerly to help with the delivery.
It was a truck load of pencils, pens, notebooks, gadgets ... school supplies of every sort for teachers and students. There were uniform clothes, a dozen brightly colored and very cool back-packs. There were shoes and socks.
And more than 100 pairs of children's underwear.
And $1,100 for the school's petty cash drawers.
The delivery women visited long enough to understand their neighborhood's good deeds were well targeted and appreciated.
Patti Clerc is Burns Elementary's "Parents' Advocate." She promised the women that every contributor would get a "thank you" note - from the students.
One of the ladies quietly reflected, "We should send the teachers and the children 'thank yous'. We enjoyed doing this and we wish we could do more - and we will !"
Dedicated teachers, very needy children, the quiet beneficent spirit of Greater Charleston.
It's nice to watch. And it will be repeated as necessary.
But can't we agree that the realities are hard to accept?
Here's hoping that we shall always search for the elusive answers to the simple question "why."
Ron Brinson, a former associate editor of this newspaper, is a North Charleston City Councilman. He can be reached at rbrin1013@gmail.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.