Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pay it Forward!

(from summer 2015 online AMH 2020 student)

All my life I have enjoyed being with kids; I was good at it and I did it often. In my youth group at church we made it a habit of ours to reach out to parts of our community that we feel churches overlook. I began to fall in love with these children who came from challenging homes. In August of 2013 I began work for a corporation that sends out members to our local elementary schools and we tutor these children. We give them more one on one attention than they would typically receive in the classroom. Starting then, even through the very challenging times, my love for them grew even more.
You can never really grasp the lives of these kids until you work with them 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. I had children come to school every day saying their stomach hurt because they hadn’t eaten since they had lunch at school the day before. Children came with clothes that were very dirty, who didn’t have proper school supplies such as: pencils, notebooks, and crayons. I worked with children who were abused, raped at the very young age of 5, and children who couldn’t sleep at night because of the noises coming from other rooms in the house at night. You probably think I am exaggerating, well I’m not. These situations were shocking and very real and I wanted to do something to change these student’s lives even if it was for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for one summer or one school year. I knew that I could be a light in these children’s lives.
A main part of my job is to encourage reading. I was read to as a child by some very enthusiastic, energetic, and animated people which is was made it so fun. I wanted to share my love of books to these kids and show them that reading can be fun. I loved reading to my students and watching the younger ones emotions throughout the sad, happy, scary, or silly parts. The older kids enjoyed to read because it was and escape away from the harsh realities of their home lives.
Another way that I enjoyed serving my students was by bringing them little treats such as, pencils or coloring book (kindergarteners really enjoyed those), erasers, books, puzzles, pens. Anything I could think of that was simple but very much appreciated not only by the students but by the teachers and (sometimes) the parents as well. I couldn’t give as much or as often as I would have liked but sometimes that’s how life goes. You have a desire to give and no way of attaining the supplies. I gave what I could and when I could and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
So, for my “Secret Mission” I donated a total of 35 books, pencils and erasers to my 3rd grade class this summer. I volunteered at a reading camp for students who struggled throughout the school year with reading. When the kids opened the books their faces lit up. These weren’t boring school books they had super heroes, princesses and athletes. Reading is a way for children to escape the craziness of their lives and to take them to a place far beyond what happens at home and in the process gives then vocabulary skills and other qualities that will help them their entire lives to become better students and people.
After handing the kids their packets I was sitting back watching them look through their books and talk with each other about reading the same books which was very heartwarming to me. The teacher asked the students if they would like “Ms Bethany autograph” the kids juped up and crowded around me. I love signing those book and know that those kids will have those books for a while (hopefully) and they will always be able to open it up and see my name and remember the love that I have for them and that it is important to care for people. I believe many people today are forgetting that. My whole mission did not cost me much at all. I used the resources that I had to be able to give these packets. The kids did not care how much their books cost they just loved that I cared enough about them to give them the books.
I chose this mission because it really hit home for me. These are my students, children in my community that I have the opportunity to see every day and to watch them grow into better people. I also feel like in order to really do something that matters you need to make sure your heart is right. You cannot (shouldn’t) complete a project like this and not care about the people or person that you are caring for. If you do not care about them then you will not be able to give it your all. I gave these children the best that I could afford based on my income, I am glad I chose to do this project and my hope is that it will speak to others around me and show them how important it is to give to the students in their own community.
My secret mission taught me how easy it is to impact a child’s life and how important it is to act on that knowledge. If we sit around and accept the conditions that these children live in or pity them then nothing is ever going to change. If we can each do one small thing such as donate pencils, books, clothes, shoes, or personal hygiene products we can all show just a little light to a child who deals with so much darkness in hopes that one day that child will remember the kindness we showed and be able to pass it along to someone else and as the saying goes, “pay it forward”.
1Pay it Forward