High-interest reading article about CITIZENSHIP.

A local business owner who once had his heating cut off because he struggled to pay the bills gives back to the community by paying the utility bill for 36 families in need.

The citizenship mini-lesson and discussion questions focus on the difference between being a citizen and being an ideal (active) citizen.

This article goes well with the ASKING QUESTIONS reading strategy.

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Mike Esmond lives in Gulf Breeze, Florida. He paid the power bills for 36 families in need during the holidays in 2019.

Back in 1983, Mike had a hard time paying his own bills. He was behind on his payments at Christmas time, so they turned the heat off. Mike and his three daughters had no heat during the winter!

Today, Mike owns Gulf Breeze Pools and Spa near Pensacola. He wanted to give back, so he asked the city what he could do. The city gave him a list of families who were behind on their bills. The amount they owed added up to $4,600. Mike paid those power bills. The city sent holiday cards to those 36 families instead of overdue bill warnings.

A journalist for WEAR posted a photo of the holiday cards on Twitter.

“It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas. You can rest earlier this holiday season knowing you have one less bill to pay. On behalf of Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas we here at the City of Gulf Breeze would like to wish you and your family a happy holiday season.”

Mike told CNN he wanted to give his neighbors “a happier Christmas and take a little bit of stress out.”

“I actually lived that back in the 1980s… I experienced the same thing, having trouble paying bills. My gas was shut off, and we had no heating for the whole winter.”

Angela Cascio lives in the area with four kids. The youngest is only 7 years old and the oldest is 17. Angela was struggling to pay the bills. It was hard to find gifts for Christmas.

A reporter for the Pensacola News Journal wrote about how surprised Angela was. “Without [Gulf Breeze Pools] paying that bill, my kids’ Christmases would have greatly suffered.” 

“Angels absolutely walk among us, and they are the epitome of kindness and what ‘paying it forward’ means to me.”

“My kids are old enough that they see their mom struggle to make ends meet,” Angela said. “They saw me burst into tears when I read the card that Gulf Breeze Pools sent to me. I am forever grateful.”

Mike is a small business owner. He is also a war veteran. Mike has done other things to help out his community.

Citizenship Mini-Lesson

There is a difference between being a citizen, and being an ideal citizen.

(In the same way, is there is a difference between being a student, and an ideal student.)

One strategy to help us become better citizens who give back to our communities is to think about empathy and try to be more empathetic.

One definition of empathy is

  • Seeing with the eyes of another…
  • Listening with the ears of another…
  • Feeling with the heart of another…

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