Donating a coat enabled a child’s own act of love

Every year I buy each of my children a new coat to wear. They also have last year’s model that they can (just barely) fit into, plus a hand-me-down from cousins, floating around the closet.

That many coats seems a bit excessive. But when I look at the Lost and Found pile at my son’s school, I know that I’m not the only mom who’s neurotic about her children staying warm.

Each time I look at that stockpile of jackets, I think about my first year of teaching in California. I was a brand new teacher in East Palo Alto, a city known for drugs, gangs and murder. I saw poverty every day that still make me hurt almost 15 years later.

One of my third-graders was a little girl named Alejandra. Her dad was in jail and her mom was in Mexico. Alejandra and her younger sister were living with an aunt and uncle. The uncle drove a brand new Cadillac Escalade, but that didn’t mean he provided Alejandra with any coat at all.

When it’s 45 degrees and you see a little girl shivering at recess, you want to do something. But I was a first-year teacher and didn’t have any money. When I did have something extra to spend, I usually bought paper and pencils for my classroom.

So I went to my mentor teacher and asked her for help. She had connections at a place like Lynnwood’s Clothes for Kids, and brought a warm coat for Alejandra the very next day. It was purple, reversible and vintage 1980s. Alejandra loved it!

I felt like a hero for about two days. Then I noticed that Alejandra wasn’t wearing her coat any more, even though the temperature was continuing to drop. I was pretty peeved. Here I had gone out of my way to help this child and she had lost her new coat in three days! I was an educator, not a social worker. But what else could I do?

I was stewing about all of this at morning recess duty. It was so cold that you could see your breath. I looked across the blacktop and saw Alejandra running around in a T-shirt. But then I saw her purple coat running around too. Alejandra had given it to her little sister, Vanessa.

I can still picture Vanessa wearing that coat. It was way too big for her, and you couldn’t see her hands because they were stuck up in the sleeves.

Every once in a while she would stop running long enough to hug Alejandra. They’d both jump up and down a few times, like they were trying to warm Alejandra up. Or maybe they were just happy to be together. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I learned an important lesson about feeling self-righteous. Luckily, my mentor teacher came through for me again. She brought Vanessa a new coat the very next day.

Now that I’m older, buying a warm coat to donate to a child in need is one of my favorite things to do every winter. But I could buy 100 coats, and I still wouldn’t be as generous as Alejandra.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at

Talk to us

More in Life

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay walks into the Prohibition Grille along Hewitt Avenue in Everett Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012 while reportedly filming an episode of Kitchen Nightmares at the Everett restaurant. (Mark Mulligan / The Herald)
Even more films and TV shows filmed in Snohomish County

Readers point out projects previously missed in this series, from reality television to low-budget indie films.

Daniella Beccaria / for The Herald

15-month-old Kantu attempts to climb a pumpkin at Stocker Farms in Snohomish on Sunday, September 20th, 2015. Stocker Farms offers a U-pick patch, farm animals and a corn maze.
Best pumpkin patch in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied, here are the results.

Everett comedian Taylor Clark performs stand-up in 2023 at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mike Bryk)
Comedian Taylor Clark to film first special Friday in Everett

The skateboarding funny-man will record an hour of his stand-up at the Historic Everett Theater.

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Death of parent with child. Piece of paper with parents and children is torn in half.
Helping children cope with the hard realities of divorce

I’s important to set aside one’s feelings and find a way to make this challenging transition as comfortable for children as you can.

In Belgium, each type of beer has its own glass – whether wide, tall, or fluted – to show off its distinct qualities.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bruges brews lift a weary traveler’s spirits

The Belgian city is a mecca for beer lovers from around the world.

Children’s author Barbara Herkert to lead Story Time at Edmonds Bookshop, Friday September 29th, 9:30-10:00 am!
Author to read her new kids book at Edmonds bookstore

Author Barbara Herkert will read “This Old Madrone Tree” Friday at Edmonds Bookshop.

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

A view of King Street Station in Seattle, Washington from an Amtrak Cascades train to Portland, Oregon from Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ride the rails on Amtrak Cascades from Everett to Portland

Make new friends and let Amtrak do the driving on this 5-hour trip past sea, city and forest.

Most Read