Ashley and Maria*


Student Service Project Report Summer 2016

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.- Maya Angelou
Recently, a small family moved in next door to me. As a friendly neighbor does, I would give a smile or wave in passing. Sometimes, if we were outside at the same time, there would be the occasional “Hi, how are you today?” I do not really spend much time outside in front of my house unless I am getting in or out of my car, so at first there was not much communication between my neighbors and me.  After a few weeks of them living in the neighborhood I noticed the family consisted of a mother, father, and a little girl.
 Through brief conversations with the mother, I realized they did not speak very good English. The family came from Mexico and recently moved here because they have a sick family member who needed their assistance. I felt so sorry for them that they had to uproot their lives to come live in what is a completely different world to them. On some days after work, I like to take my two dogs on an evening walk (if it is not too hot). As we were walking up I noticed the little girl get excited from seeing my dogs. I have large dogs and most people are frightened of them at first sight, even though they are the biggest babies on the planet and would not hurt a fly. That is the first time I had an interaction with the daughter of this very sweet family, who goes by the name Maria.  From them on, she would come outside as I walked up the road with my dogs so she could give them their “daily love” as she called it. She was never scared of them, or them of her. As time passed, she and I spent more time together. She would come over and play with my dogs or help me take them for a walk. 
As I learned more about the family, I could tell they were in financial difficulty. The father was nearly never home because he had to work constantly to make a living for them. The mother had to take care of her mother who is very sick and why they moved here. That left little attention to Maria. I have been in childcare for a very long time and nothing makes me happier than being around little ones. Even though Maria was not “little” and will be going into middle school after summer is over, I enjoyed her company. Realizing the rough time they are having, I started letting Maria come over when I would get home from work or I would go over to their house to watch her when her mother and father needed to be somewhere else. We have a great time together while cooking dinner, watching movies, and going girly things like paint our nails. In a way I feel like her big sister. With the upcoming school year, I have helped Maria improve on her English. I have her work on worksheets that will help give her a foresight on things she might learn at school. I also try to teach her on everyday things in life that seem to be “normal” to us here in the United States, but are very foreign to her. I know children in middle school can be very mean, so I want to help her adjust as well as I can because she is as sweet as she can be and very smart.
I did not want to use this as a “service project”, but I wanted to be able to share this experience I am having with others. Spending time with Maria has become more a regular thing. I told her mom I am available to watch her as needed after I am home from work. But the thing is, I do not consider it “watching” her. She has taught me so much about certain things in life I never would have thought of before. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with this wonderful child. It is so easy (and very common in the society we live in today) for people to get wrapped up in their lives, that they do not take the time to think about the feelings or needs of others. The quote that I stated above by Maya Angelou has never made an impact on me as much as it has after meeting Maria and her family. As I look back on my life after reading that quote, those words could not be truer. We forget certain things as the years go by, but we never forget how we felt at the time. Maria has taught me a big lesson in life and I hope we continue to be friends for a very long time.