“I wish I had an All About Me Book.”
It’s wasn’t a normal mentoring day, but on Tuesday I went to mentor during Edie’s lunch time. I rescheduled our mentoring hour when my grandfather passed away over that weekend.
As I walked into the lunch room, Edie saw me and quickly came up and grabbed my hand. “Are you okay?” She asked, her face clearly worried.
“Yes! I’m okay.” I said to her, smiling at her sweet face. Her teacher had informed her that my grandfather had passed and had let Edie know that I would be coming early this week.
For some reason, I decided to ask if she wanted to have lunch in the lunch room today as opposed to the Kids Hope USA room. Her face brightened and she said yes, asking if I would go to recess with her outside afterward.
“Absolutely.” I replied.
Needless to say, the moment I sat down at the lunch table, I was swarmed with second graders asking me questions:
“What’s your name?”
“What school do you go to?”
“Are you Edie’s Kids Hope person?”
“Will you open my bag of chips?”
I tried to filter through them politely, and still pay some exclusive attention to Edie. I opened her apple sauce for her and asked how her family was. She mentioned her Dad and new baby sister were home from the hospital.
Suddenly, a little girl at the other end of the table yelled out, “I’m going to see my Dad this Saturday! I never see him. Only once in a while. He lives in Ann Arbor.”
Quickly after, another boy yelled out, “I never see my Mom cause she works the night shift.”
Interrupting the boy, another girl blurted out that her Mom never goes to field trips, because she works the night shift, too.
I didn’t know what to say – I sat there and looked at these kids… are there really that many who felt like they rarely saw one of their parents? I completely understand that there are many different family circumstances, but was it that common?
One little girl stood out to me. In the chaos of questions, she sat completely silent and wide-eyed, just staring at me. She was small compared to the other girls, and I hadn’t seen her at the school before. She had tousled red hair and lots of freckles sprinkled accross her face.
After lunch Edie and I headed out to recess. She held my hand and asked if I would push her on the swings. As we walked towards them, I noticed a chatter behind me. Looking back, I realized a large group of second grade girls was following Edie and I. Edie jumped on a swing, and the group of girls followed suit. I began to push her as the other girls sat on their swings and watched.
One of them called out, “Will you push me now?” And promptly after, every girl on the swing set was calling out to me, “Push me! Push me!”
I let them know that I could push each of them once, but that I was here to play with Edie.
After close to ten “under-dogs” I walked back over to Edie, who was happily sitting on her swing. Leaning on the swing set support behind her, was the little red haired girl. She stood silent, just watching me.
The rest of recess included Edie and I moving from one activity to the next, second grade girls close behind. Edie proudly held my Kids Hope USA bag the entire time, wearing it like a badge of honor. Always near us, was the little red haired girl.
Toward the end of recess, we all headed to a large grassy area to play duck-duck-goose. Edie dropped the Kids Hope USA bag on the ground and joined the large circle forming in the grass. Just as quickly as Edie dropped the bag, the little red haired girl picked it back up. “I can carry it for you, Edie.” She said.
I watched in awe as she pulled out the “All About Me” booklet in the bag, and slowly began flipping through the pages. Edie got up and stood beside her. I just stood and watched.
“What is this?” the girl asked Edie.
“It’s Theresa and I’s book,” she replied. “See, there’s me, and there’s Theresa.”
Edie pointed out our self portraits that we had drawn months ago. The little girl just stared, continuing to flip through the pages.
“I wish I had an All About Me book.” She finally said, quietly.
Once she had finished flipping through the book, she placed it back in the bag, and didn’t let go of it even when the recess bell rang.
“I can take that back now, Katie.” Edie said, grasping my hand in one of hers and stretching her other out to take back the canvas bag
“No, it’s okay, I can carry it for you.” Katie replied.
Edie shrugged, and we walked back to the school entrance. Katie walked with us, still quiet, but with a smile on her face. I walked Edie and Katie back to their classroom, and hugged Edie goodbye.
As I headed towards the exit, I couldn’t help but feel like my heart was heavy. I am so thankful for the change I’ve seen in Edie, and I know that she has grown in self-confidence and understanding that she is valued. However, whenever I step out of the confines of the Kids Hope USA room, I am reminded of the need that still exists.
I don’t know Katie’s circumstances – or the circumstances of the children at the lunch table. But one thing I do know, is that many of them are desperate to hear from an adult that they are loved. There was a reason Katie wouldn’t leave Edie and I’s side. There’s a reason she wanted to take a turn carrying the “Kids Hope USA bag.”
I don’t know what the reason is, but I know that in her mind that afternoon, Kids Hope USA meant something good. I want this post to be an encouragement to every single mentor that sacrifices an hour of their time each week. But at the same time, I want this to be motivation to continue to spread the word and encourage others to make a difference in these children’s lives.
Let’s make sure that every child has their own, “All About Me” book.
You can help ensure more Kids Hope USA programs are created so that more kids can have their own, “All About Me” book HERE.