For a while now, it has been on my life bucket list to be a special friend to a child in care (this idea was birthed after realizing that adoption is not the only way to help kids from hard places). With this desire, I contacted my local Children’s Services and went to a volunteer orientation. From there, I jumped through hoops (police check, letter from doctor, references, etc) to be involved in the “special friend” program. This is similar to Big Sister/Big Brother. In April of this year, I was matched with a…boy! The ironic thing is that I signed up to be a mentor to a girl in care and in the end, I ended up picking the only boy seeking a special friend. Besides he being a he…this boy seemed like the best fit. (Now let me explain. I love boys! I really do. They rock. I’m the oldest of 4 girls. As a result, I tend to connect with girls super fast and we end up being BFF’s. I was nervous re: how to build that connection with a boy. Plus I’m not into video games, never been good at sports, etc).
This volunteer opportunity has been pushing me out of my comfort zone and I’m feeling so blessed as a result. The following are reflections of this experience so far:
1. As edgy as I felt for the first “date” with the little man, I’m glad that I pushed through those nerves. He’s a great kid! And for being someone who isn’t gifted athletically, I loved our last get together where we played catch and soccer. Lots of fun.
2. Because Children’s Services has been involved with supporting the family, I assumed that I wouldn’t like mom (don’t ask me to explain where this came from!). I thought that we wouldn’t click. Then I met her and walked away thinking, “wow, I REALLY like her!”. This is helping to change my preconceived notions of families needing help from services.
3. The family has moved twice within the 3 months that I’ve been involved. As a result, I’ve been to areas of our town that normally I would drive through but have no reason to stop. Through this placement, I’ve gotten to know adults and children that otherwise I’d never know. It’s a shame that middle class me and living below the poverty line them don’t have many opportunities to rub shoulders.
4. As a pastor’s wife who leads youth group, volunteers in nursery, etc. etc. it’s not that I’m without volunteer opportunities. I’m starting to believe that its important to volunteer in the church and outside of it. I appreciate being involved with and connected to our community in a way that I wouldn’t be otherwise.
5. You’ve likely heard this before: I feel like I’m getting more out of volunteering than I’m giving! At certain times, I walk away feeling that I should have to pay for all that I’m learning through this placement. Volunteering can be truly energizing in-spite of going outside of comfort zone.
The past couple of months have been difficult. During a season of grief, I began this volunteer role (its just how the timing came together). I like to think that my “special friend” has helped to keep me afloat. Sometimes, I don’t necessarily feel in the mood to volunteer. Those tend to be the times that I go home with a full heart. Grateful that I pushed past my comfort zone to hang out with a boy. A kid who has had a tough life. And yet, a kid who is teaching me so very much.