Read To Me

In typical Katie fashion, I waited until the last day of the month and almost the last hour to reach my goal of finding one way a month to love thy neighbor.  On Tuesday night I volunteered at the largest family homeless shelter in Arizona.  UMOM is an incredible organization that works very hard to end the cycle of homelessness.  One of the many volunteer opportunities is to read to children at the shelter.  Many of the kids are not so privilege as to get a bedtime story every night.  With my love for babies and kids, I thought working with kids would be a good place to start.  I had no idea what to expect.  To say the least, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  There were not just a handful of kids, there were 75!!!  Before the kids arrive, you set up the room with blankets to sit on and pass out 100's of books.  All of the books are color coded for their age appropriate level.  We then packed up snacks for the kids to take after they left.

I was matched up with a very sweet, 8 year old little boy.  He shuffled through the books and we ended up reading one about whales first.  I thought he would be somewhere near Karlie's reading level.  He was closer to Kaitlin's but he tried his hardest.  Then we moved on to a book for me to read to him.   The children also get to choose 3 books to take home with them.  So for a break, he went and scouted out the treasures he would take home.  Each time he found one, he brought it back to me to guard.  We continued to read and chat.  He has 2 siblings at the shelter with him and 2 older ones that he doesn't know where they are.

As it was time for him to line up, he came running back to me with a Sesame Street baby board book and told me he really wanted to take it to his baby sister because she loves Elmo.  The agony in his eyes about which treasured book to exchange it for was killing me.  He asked if he could just put the little book in his pocket.  I told him that if he told the director what he wanted to do, that I thought she would let him take all of them home.  I didn't see the result, but can't imagine them saying no.

The needs were so great in the room that it made me want to take all of them home with me.  All of these kids are in very tough situations by no fault of their own and with hardly the chance at the American dream that most kids have.  In this experience, I realized that I have trouble with boundaries when kids are concerned.  I can't love them all better.  I can go and read with them.  I can donate to the shelter.  I can work at the soup kitchen.  I can work at the daycare center.  But I can't make it all better.  I can't rescue them with love.

I am still wondering how my little guy is doing and if everything is going to be okay for him.  With this first attempt to love my neighbor, I have learned it is much easier to love from afar.  I don't know yet if serving kids is where I am suppose to be or if I could be less heartbroken with adults.  Maybe I am suppose to be heartbroken?  The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment great than these." ~ Mark 12:31


Courtney said...

I expected you to say you took 10 of them home with you!!! You have such a big heart and the nurse in you wants to nurture them all. I'd say those characteristics make for one great Mama.

Lacey said...

Oh Katie. What a great experience. My heart breaks for that little boy and knowing there are so many like him out there. I do a mentoring program here, and it is hard to hear the stories. What a GREAT thing to do for your first love thy neighbor. I need to send you a video from our church on Sunday. I will do it via facebook. And I will pray for your little boy........

I hope he got that Elmo book for his sister. Makes me want to mail him and his family books.

Way to go Mama! I love that you did that. you have such a good heart!!!!

Anonymous said...

Katie, my first volunteer venture was
Humane Society - mobbed w/volunteers;
what,who is't, nursing homes; I went; pain, smiles, heartache such as you experienced. Hang in, yr rewards will be to see faces light up when you enter and a renewed thanks to God for how you have been blessed. Lv/Gram. Anonymous

Anna said...

): welcome to my professional world. Last month I had a woman with a 3 yo beautiful little girl whose baby teeth were black with rot from not being cared for.

It is an incredibly difficult population to work with no matter what, but certainly seeing the likely empty futures of most of the kids is really really soul crushing.