Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Do You Serve?

My elementary school site absolutely loves Generations Incorporated. I generally get stopped in the hall about 20 times a day by children asking me to take them to read. If it is a child that I know we serve regularly, I tell them that they will need to wait their turn to see their reading coach. If it is a child that I don't recognize, I usually ask them who their teacher is and tell them that they need permission from them before they can read with us. Today, just like any other day, I was stopped by a child on her way to the restroom with the question "Can you take me to read, please?" So, as usual I told her to ask her teacher. After she used the restroom, the first grader approached me a second time.

"Excuse me, do you take kids who don't know how to read good?" she asked.

"No, we are coaches who help kids read the best that they can," I replied.

"Oh okay. I really want to read with you because my parents can't read with me at home," she said, "my daddy works all day and night and my mommy is blind so she can't help me."

It took everything that I had to not show this child the internal struggle that was brewing, because anyone who knows me knows that I cry at just about anything that is remotely heartfelt. All of the training in the world could not have prepared me for this sobering encounter with a six year old. It was about the equivalent of watching an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and an SPCA commercial with Sarah Mclachlan belting out the song "Angel." It was enough to melt the heart of Cruella Deville. After speaking to her teacher, I learned that the child is already receiving outside help for a large portion of the week. Since the child took such initiative to be a part of our program, her teacher was happy to find a spot in her schedule to allow the girl to read with us twice a week.

It is difficult to put into words the effect that these kids have on me. They tend to put everything into perspective, making this experience more meaningful and important than I could have ever imagined. Each day brings on new surprises, challenges, and rewards. Experiences like the one with this child today are sure to stick with me for life.

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