“That Lady I Was Telling You About”
Can 45 minutes per week have a meaningful impact in a child’s life?
In January, my wife Joanna started eating lunch with a class of 5th graders, every Wednesday. For the first few weeks, it was slightly awkward as she worked to engage the students in conversation. A couple of kids knew her, but she didn’t want to spend all her time with them.
Over time, the children began to open up more and more. They were excited to see her, and if I saw anyone from that class on Monday or Tuesday, they would ask, “Is your wife coming this week?”
As the school year came to a close, Joanna saw how much the relationships with all the students had grown. Though she might not see those kids much (or at all) in the summer or fall, she hoped that she had a positive impact in their lives.
One Life that Was Lifted by Love
One of the students in the class was a young lady I met the year before, when I worked as a parent and community liaison for the school district. She had a unstable family background, to say the least, and was living with her grandparents at the time. An intelligent student, she did not come across as motivated, and had struggled with a negative attitude towards teachers and classmates.
We didn’t see this girl from the end of May until the beginning of August. She attended the same 4H camp as Hannah and Elijah, and we saw her during the closing ceremony. Joanna and I smiled when we saw her, and it was obvious that she had a good time.
After the ceremony, she went up to my wife and said, “Ms. Joanna, you cut your hair!” For all the bad rap that kids in Allendale get, they always remember people. More specifically, they remember people who genuinely care about them.
The girl then turned to the person picking her up (her case worker, not a family member), and excitedly said, “This is that lady I was telling you about!”
If there was any doubt that 45 minutes per week (and even missing a few weeks) could make a difference, it was erased that moment. Even though this young lady never had a 1-on-1, intimate conversation with my wife, she still thought that Joanna was special enough to tell her case worker.
What Can You Do?
What about you? Can you spare 3-4 hours per month investing in the life of a child? From personal experience, it will probably be awkward at first. You will wonder if you are making a difference. At least, I did the first year I mentored a child.
But I also know this from personal experience: your time will be received as a gift of love. That child (or group of children) will treasure any attention and care that you give them.
Wherever you live or work, you can be a mentor to a child. Get in touch with a local school or after school program. If you are in Allendale, I can help give you some direction. If you are in Greenville (SC), contact Mentor Greenville, a new program that has grown out of the Frazee Center (which declared that mentoring is the gameplan for poverty).
And if you know of another program in your area that helps provide and train mentors, please let us know in the comments.
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- Teachers and Coaches: Relationships Matter
**image courtesy of woodleywonderworks via flickr