published Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

David Cook: One plus another equals everything

For 17-year-old Jaime Simonds, numbers can do strange things.

Most of the time, she loves them.

In her mind, they fall into place like a handshake in ways most of us meager-brained people don't understand.

Other times, numbers are as sharp as kitchen knives, and no matter how hard she adds or subtracts, there's not enough in the checkbook to pay for medicines, milk and the light bill.

And on some days, like yesterday, nothing at all makes sense.

"Oh my gosh. Is this real? Is this for me?" Simonds said as the tears began to sneak out of her blue eyes. "This is amazing. Look at this."

She had just opened a white envelope that contained a $200 cashier's check. Every penny, just for her.

Moments ago, she had learned of another anonymous $100 donation. Just to help.

Before that, inside the East Eighth Street building of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, Simonds received a big bag of books, perfect for her young son and her 10-year-old sister.

All gifts. From strangers.

Simonds, who days ago didn't know how she would pay her December light bill, lives with her hourly wage mom; young son, Eric (his birthday is this week); and her sister, Desiree.

Many of you read about them in the Dec. 26 newspaper (reporter Rachel Bunn wrote a front-page story; I added a column that nicknamed her the "girl who conquers numbers") as part of the Neediest Cases Fund. Some of you then responded with money, gifts, donations and offers to help.

"You truly are an exceptional young lady and I wish you all the best in your journey through life," read the anonymous letter attached to the cashier's check.

What a journey. Simonds moves gig-fast through her courses at Chattanooga State Community College, where she's enrolled in a program that lets her work at her own pace.

She finished economics in four days. Can read faster than Usain Bolt can run.

"I timed her," her foster dad told me. "Thirty seconds a page."

She wants to be a doctor. Then a lawyer. And get her doctoral degree in something. Anything. Like 10 resumes rolled into one. She knows it can happen, and names the one she thinks is behind it all.

"God," she said.

Yet each month, she's not sure if her savings account will make it to triple digits.

"I appreciate your toughness. I appreciate the people in the community for recognizing and being sensitive to some of your needs," Jack Parks, with the Partnership, told her. "Just keep going."

Gandhi once spoke about the world being rooted in goodness. Were we truly violent people, he said, humankind would have vanished long ago.

Jaime Simonds, at the center of an ecology of generosity, reminds me of that. She may be tougher than rebar, but she's also held in place by many folks. Including some of you.

Sometimes, the math doesn't work. No matter how hard we count, we end up with far more than we expect.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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LaughingBoy said...

No child support from the father?

January 9, 2013 at 2:31 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"Where is her child's father ? Where is the father of her mother's child ?"

That information wasn't provided.

"She "finished economics" in four days ? What does that mean ?"

She finished all the work required for the course in four days.

"She wants to accomplish a lot of things but who will pay for it all ?"

I bet she gets a lot of financial aid and/or loans if she's poor enough.

"Who is to feed her child and her sibling ?"


"Does my daughter and son work a second shift to pay for this person's "dream" ?"


"And taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pay for all of life's expenses for people who have been judged by Cook to be deserving of taxpayer help."

Tax payers aren't forced to pay for anyone's life expenses. And Mr. Cook never deemed this girl "deserving of taxpayer help". People gave this girl charity because they wanted to help her. Are you saying that's wrong?

"College expenses, housing, food, childcare, healthcare, transportation are what Progressive would have us pay for anyone desiring those things."

Straw man argument. Public housing, food stamps, and welfare are safety net programs. They are only for people that qualify. They are available to you as well if you find yourself in dire financial straits. You pay for no ones healthcare or transportation. You pay taxes. You can get the same healthcare at the health department if you'd like it. You can ride the bus as well.

"There is no end to it."

There is. You just tend to err on the side of slippery slopes.

"Perhaps our paychecks each week should be sent directly to Cook and he can judge whether each one of us are deserving of keeping any of it."

This is nonsensical and, like I said before, Mr. Cook never deemed this girl deserving of anyones tax dollars. He wrote a story and people wanted to help her.

I bet you have no clue how much of an individuals tax dollars go towards safety net programs.

January 10, 2013 at 4:02 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"easy I want to become a doctor, a lawyer, and tight rope walker. But I am a baby daddy and I can't afford my wildest dreams. I demand that you help me."

Good for you. This young lady hasn't demanded anything from anyone. She is investing in her and her child's future by attending college. If you had a speck of logic, you would encourage others to follow her example. But, as usual, you don't. You just bitch and lie...bitch and misinform...bitch and wax indignant.

"Maybe you and Cook can play the role of baby daddy for this young women."

I'd love to meet her. Her baby already has a daddy.

"Cook is a professional Progressive."

You're a professional Regressive.

"His life is all about advancing the thought that the production of most citizens should be harnessed for the "greater good", and transferred to those that he and his fellow Progressives feel are deserving."

That entire statement is asinine and false. Don't you ever get tired of having to conjure up these false ideas about people? I know you never tire of it but, considering the sheer amount of times you do use that fallacious argument, I would think you might give up on the straw men after the millionth time.

January 10, 2013 at 4:30 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"Maybe Cook could give us updates every three months for the next 10 years to let us know how this young women is progressing."

Maybe you should email him with that request.

January 10, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"I would think that everyone who is contributing financially to this young women would like to know if their money is well spent."

You think wrong. She's taking all the right steps and has endless potential. That's why people are trying to help her. They want her to succeed. If she doesn't, at least they tried. True charity is selfless.

January 10, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"How will they know if she succeeds unless they get some type of accounting ?"

They won't know. That's my point. That's true charity. People have given to this girl knowing there is a chance she won't succeed. They take the chance for whatever reason and do it knowing they will likely never know about if she finally succeeded or not.

"Tell you and Cook should start sending her checks on a monthly basis. Maybe a hundred or two each month. Do it for ten years. Then check in with her and see how it all turned out."

Conduct this experiment yourself if you're so inclined. Do you have a point or are you going to keep rambling on about what you want me and Mr. Cook to do?

January 10, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"True charity doesn't come by force via the tax code."

Safety net programs aren't charity. You'll always have to pay taxes. Get over it.

January 11, 2013 at 9:31 a.m.
Easy123 said...


"Safety net programs are charity."

No, they are not.

January 11, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.
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