After completing our third day of service, my outlooks and thoughts on the trip are a little more cohesive. Our day began like the others, morning and early afternoon at the school, late afternoon at the boys and girls club. I finally had each kindergartener’s name memorized and began to know them all on a more personal level. What amazed me today was the insight and purity each youngster possessed, and the curious ways they articulated them. After learning the sounds that M and S make, I got to read a story about the wind! Before I handed out Quaker Oatmeal bars to each student, and since there are about 18 of them, I had to use two boxes. After passing out the first box and returning the my desk to grab the second, I observed something quite fantastic. About six students did not yet have an oatmeal bar, but the other twelve who had one in their possession were offering to give theirs up to suffice the snacking needs of their classmate. I was awed by the kindness these children showed. Unprompted, they all rose to the occasion to help those around them. In addition, many of the boys decided to “share” their snacks with me. We all had the same kind of bar (chocolate chip, delicious) but we would break ours in half and trade with someone. The end result was of course the same, but it was more the gesture of kindness these children demonstrated that I found satisfying.
I also learned I have the same sense of humor as a kindergartener. We were supposed to use plastic insects today to practice counting, but most of the boys were far too interested in playing to complete the activities (the girls were much more obedient, though it pains me to say it). One boy put the fly on his abdomen and said “Mr. Greg, I have to go to the nurse, I have a stomach bug!” It was hard to reprimand him when I found his joke gut-busting (excuse the pun). But after a quick laugh he moved on to counting in pairs.
Along with the humor aspect, I learned I have identical interests to an 8-10 year old. At the boys and girls club, most of the kids wanted nothing short of endless pool, ping pong, and foosball matches. To their dismay, we had an activity to complete before that. Brett and I, who together were in charge of about 20 pre-preteens, helped organize a service project for the Haiti Relief effort. The first day we brought it up, the kids had little to no interest in it. However today, we proposed writing letters to those affected telling them they were in our thoughts. To my amazement, once we gave the children something to be actively involved in, the thrived. Even some of the most troublesome boys settled down to write very thoughtful things. After a half hour of thoughtful writing and coloring we had a stack of personalized, handwritten letters. I explained to the boys that there were two kinds of needs the vicitms had, emotional and physical. We realized we were helping to appease the emotional needs, and decided to implement another part of the plan. Each children vowed to ask friends, family, and neighbors to donate non-perishable canned goods to aid in the effort. One child even proposed scouring his house for clothes and toys he outgrew. The children were excited to participate and it seems that the program will continue even after we leave Chicago. It’s great to see the kids get so involved in their own service, and that some would even step up as leaders to keep the effort going. And after all the work of course, we had time for foosball.
Overall today was one of the most meaningful days of service because every ounce of effort I put towards to kids was rebounded tenfold to me in a mixture of laughter, smiling, and exertion of effort to help one another and the world around them.