A devout Catholic who knows her saints, Elizabeth grew up wanting to teach, she also wanted to be a saint.
Elizabeth Finck came from a line of people who gave generously to those in need. She notes the way to get to heaven is determined by how one treats and cares for people who are poor. Her grandfather would say, “I would rather give to ten people, and nine not need it, to make sure the one gets relief.”
Eventually, Elizabeth became a music teacher. She worked in Tulsa Public Schools with predominantly low-income students. She also loved history and found ways to pepper history lessons in with music. She enlisted the help of a dance teacher who would find cheap costumes, and together they put on sparkly, elaborate productions with the kids. She loved it.
She observed that many children would arrive at school and didn’t have much food at home. “It was awful. When the children were hungry, they were lethargic and would often fall asleep in class. They couldn’t do their work.” She, another teacher, a cafeteria worker, and the principal would frequently pool their money together to make sure hungry children could eat.
Her mother was also a music teacher who would give lessons to people even if they couldn’t afford it. She would say, “If you want to talk money, go to the bank. If you want to talk lessons, come see me.”
Years ago, Elizabeth had a studio and taught many students. Now, as she takes care of her sister who is paraplegic, she is down to just five students, three of whom can’t afford to pay. She tells them they are on scholarship. One of the children lives with 70 and 65 year old grandparents, and they survive on social security income. Elizabeth was emphatic, “I can’t take money from them.”
Following the lessons of her grandparents and parents, Elizabeth makes modest, consistent donations to the Food Bank in order to help people get the food they need. Since 1999, she has made over 400 donations whenever she receives a refund or has extra money. She enjoys paying it forward with a personal call to the Food Bank. “I sometimes give more than I should, but God takes care of me.”
“I wanted to change the world, but it seems worse off now than ever. I’ll have to leave it for the next generation. Somewhere along the way, I hope I helped a couple of kids.”
She remembers one student who was constantly in trouble. The principal was about to suspend the child when Elizabeth chimed in, “But that’s what he wants. He wants to go home and not work so hard.” Instead, the principal agreed to send him to her class when he acted out. She responded, “I didn’t know you were going to do that.” As class time allowed, she gave him music lessons, and he would help her with the younger students. She reflected, “At some point, his mother died and he went to live in the Boys Home.” Years later, he found Elizabeth at her studio and told her he was driving a bus and doing alright. He let her know how much of a positive influence she had been in his life. Elizabeth met one of her life’s goals as a teacher. She may well be on her way to the other.