It’s a difficult reality that many of the most rewarding jobs are rewarding in relationships — not money. Some of the work that has the biggest impact on people’s lives has the smallest payout.
Educators are notorious for this: The best ones make a difference in hundreds of lives, but they’re often left to pay for the means to make that difference on their own.
He’s the principal at North Charleston High School, and he has the privilege of meeting many kids and getting to know their situations. Around 90% live under the poverty line.
“I get a little emotional, because, um, when you’ve got children you’ve heard, sleeping under a bridge, or a former student and her child, they’re sleeping in a car, or when you go to a parent house because there’s problems and you knock on the door, there are no curtains and you see a mattress on the floor,” Darby said while talking to NBC’s “Today”.
“I am an optimist,” he continued. “But I’m also a determinist. I know that it’s going to get better. I know that these times will not always be with us. I know that my students will not always be in poverty. I know that because that’s what we are. America makes it better for everybody.”
But part of that is pitching in himself, and Darby has gone far above and beyond the call of duty to make the lives of his students better.
“And these people need — and I wasn’t gonna say no,” he explained. “And at my age, you know, we don’t ask for money. We just don’t. Um, you just go ahead and do what you need to do.”
So, he took a second job. A night job, stocking shelves at Walmart.
He didn’t tell his manager Cynthia Solomon what his day job was — he just pitched in and started doing the work. Despite that, Solomon knew there was something different about Darby.
“Even before we knew, um, there was something special about him,” she said. “I would be so happy to have Mr. Darby for as long as he will have us as a part of his family and beyond.”
According to WCBD-TV, despite Darby’s efforts to keep his work quiet and avoid fanfare, he was recognized the first night he worked, and news spread quickly.
“The attention, I’m not used to it,” Darby said after his story went viral. “I don’t think that I’ve done anything worthy of distinction to warrant the attention.”
But the attention has done much good for his students. A GoFundMe was created for the school kids and currently sits at $105,000 of donations. Several anonymous givers offered the school thousands and hundreds after hearing Darby’s story.
Walmart wanted to recognize Darby’s efforts, too, and help him meet his students’ needs. They surprised him, with help from Today, with a check for $50,000 made out to the school.
“You’re awesome and we appreciate you here at Walmart for all you are doing to serve your community,” Solomon told Darby upon giving him the check.
A high school principal in North Charleston, South Carolina has gone viral for taking on an extra overnight job at Walmart to help his students in need. @craigmelvin introduces us to Henry Darby, and Walmart presents a surprise donation of $50,000 to his school. pic.twitter.com/w8WToo9RCa
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 29, 2021
The principal was speechless at first but thanked everyone profusely. He said that he had no plans to leave his Walmart job anytime soon — despite getting barely any sleep — but also said the donated funds would do much good in their community.
He shared a bit of advice, too — something he tells his students regularly.
“It’s quite simple, simplistic: Just learn to help others,” he said. “That is one of the greatest things that we could do in terms of human beings.”
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