JUANITA FLOYD: Parent of the Year Rayburn issues tough challenge

By Juanita Floyd

I was in the audience when Dr. Harry Rayburn was selected Tupelo Public School District Parent of the Year. In accepting the award, he talked about his love for his alma mater – Tupelo High, and the importance of volunteering. He stressed that it could be you – a mother, father, grandparent or a community leader that could volunteer in our schools, churches or communities.
In his role as a volunteer with the schools, once a week, he helps translate and tutor students who cannot speak English. He shared a heartwarming and thought-provoking story about a young student. The young fellow had an accident and refused to come out of the bathroom. The teacher called Dr. Rayburn and asked for his immediate assistance. Samuel Johnson said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
Rayburn’s answer, “Yes, I’ll help.” He realized the young lad needed clothes and underwear. He purchased clothes at a local clothing store and then stopped by his house and got some of his son’s underwear for the little boy to use. He arrived at school and, of course, near the bathroom, he could smell the foul odor. He began speaking to the young, embarrassed boy and was finally able to help him.
Dr. Rayburn said, “I told this story, not to belittle the lad, but to say – many times we allow situations in our life to stink! We try to cover up the odor – whether it’s within our schools, communities, or churches. It is up to us to do something about it.” He encouraged all of us to become more active in our schools, in our churches and communities and to make a difference.
Questions surfaced. Do we cover up problems or try to solve them? Do we complain? Do we sit back and allow the foul odor to permeate? Do we try to make a difference in whatever we are involved in? Do we use excuses not to volunteer? Do we say I am not getting involved with that individual because he/she happens to be different? Do we say it is someone else’s problems – let them deal with them?
Joshua Henry Jones, a novelist, said, “None of us are responsible for our births. But all of us are responsible with what we do with our lives.” I believe all of us have been placed on this earth to make a difference. I feel it is our responsibility to work on problems that may occur in a positive manner.
This school year I was elected President of the PTO at Tupelo High School. Several parents and community members said to me, “We want to be involved and active in the PTO.” A noon and a night meeting were scheduled. We sent out 150 letters to local churches in our area inviting the pastors, parents and community members to the meetings. An email was sent to members about the meetings. It was an informative meeting that discussed the primary duties of the PTO and our principal gave an update on the “State of the High School.”
I was so disappointed that only a handful of parents attended each general meeting. If we want change; if we want to be informed; if we want to make a difference, then as parents or community leaders we must actively participate and not make excuses.
Dr. Rayburn told us the little boy is now successfully reading and is a happy little boy. What if Dr. Rayburn had not helped? What if he had said – “Let somebody else do it”? What if he had said, “I don’t have time”? His message was loud and clear to me – we cannot continue to cover up the foul odor to problems that occur.
Retired Professor Larry Anderson said, “These initials were on my board every day – SW, SW, SW – translating into: Some Won’t, Some Will, So What! Are you the one willing to make a difference or to volunteer? Is it your responsibility to uncover the odor? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at juanita@createfoundation.com.