Every single child I meet at tutoring changes my life. I remember every child's name I meet. I even bought a pair of earrings from a jewelry catalog because they were named "Kelsey" - a young girl I was blessed to work with for many weeks. I often put in my ears and smile, closing my eyes and picturing where she is at that moment. Hoping she is in a better place and praying she will remember me for the rest of her life.
Last night, I saw a dad walking in the hallway with a group of children. Only two of the children were school-aged, though.
That is when I saw him. He was so adorable and he gave me a small smile. He looked away and then quickly looked back at me to make sure I was still smiling at him.
I waved at him and he waved back, and then gave me his beautiful smile again.
He walked straight into the room and sat down right next to me. He didn't introduce himself, but he pulled out his homework and book. He looked up at me and smiled.
"Hi," I said. "My name is Ashley. What is your name?"
"Anthony*," he said back quietly.
From there, we started talking about his day. I learned that he was in first grade. He loves school. When Anthony grows up, he is going to protect the city: he will be a police officer. I don't doubt it. With his big heart and brilliant mind, I believe he can do absolutely anything he sets his mind to accomplishing. I told him that too.
Of course, he had math homework. I felt a confident because it was first grade math. He had story problems and one of the questions read, "Justin had four shells."
We were reading the sentence together and he stopped instantly when we read, "Justin!"
"That is my brother's name!" he said very excited.
"That's awesome," I said back. "My husband's name is Justin."
"Justin Bieber?" he asked. "Did you marry Justin Bieber?"
I couldn't help but laugh. Every single child asks me if I am married to Justin Bieber when I tell them my husband's name. Oh, popular culture.
"No," I said back smiling. "I didn't get marry Justin Bieber....but my Justin is awesome!"
"Well - we call my brother The Black Justin Bieber," he said. "Because he is black and sings."
"Well, hey - that makes sense...." I said and couldn't stop smiling.
He then went on to tell me that his dad hunts rabbits, dinosaurs, and lions. In that order....I simply love a child's imagination. They are dreamers. They have big hearts.
These children are living in a homeless shelter - something many of us have never experienced. I remember thinking sharing a room with my sister was so miserable; but really it was a blessing. Especially when I think about these young children...who don't even have a bed to call their own, let alone a room to share at their own house.
If you have even one hour - one night a week to spare - I would urge you to volunteer at Indy School on Wheels or another organization that helps children and families in need. Not only do these young, imaginative and driven children need positive role models in their life; they will inspire you to become a better person. They teach you to look at the world differently with a much larger heart; to cherish everything that you have and stop worrying about everything you want. Be thankful for everyone in your life. More importantly, they teach you to hold onto your childhood heart:
"To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson