Yesterday I had the opportunity to go volunteer at the Midtown Family Center. The activity was coordinated between my company and NYCares to benefit kids in a Foster Home Prevention program.
I didn't really know what that meant, so let me explain. Foster Prevention is for children who are on the verge of being removed from their homes. For example, if there were criminal charges pending on a parent and, if convicted, there were no Next of Kin, then the child would be involved in this program.
The idea is to give them extra help and attention. They live in environments that are not healthy and don't receive great care. They learn in schools that are under-staffed, under-equipped, and under-funded. So NYCares created this after school program to provide these kids an opportunity to interact with adults in a fun, creative, and educational way.
Last night the theme was the book "Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse". It was a very cute story about a mouse who wishes he was a toy so that the humans would like him. So he goes to see a magic lizard who can grant him a wish. But before he makes his wish he discovers that the Wind-Up mouse is going to get thrown away because the humans got new toys. So instead he wishes that the Wind-Up mouse get turned into a real mouse so that they can be friends...
It's a really cute story. So we read the books with the kids, and then did art projects with them themed around the book. At the end they served the kids pizza which they all went CRAZY for. It was tempting to have some - but I stuck to my guns and am still on tap with my cleanse!
Anyway, it was a really awesome experience. I mean, in a totally heart-breaking sort of way. The kids were all so excited to read the books to/with us. They were elated to to use colored paper and scissors. And even more elated to get a Regular slice of Ray's. They were so happy. That part was awesome.
And then I thought about where these kids are headed. Into foster care and then who-knows-where. Most won't graduate from high school. Nearly none will get to attend college. They'll grow up to become a Product of a flawed system. And that is the part where my heart broke. All those smiles....
It makes me feel guilty, which I know it shouldn't but it does. I mean, education was expected - Not a luxury. Pizza was junk food and not allowed all that often. My mom standing at the curb outside school waiting for me every day. I went to arcades. And a special meal was Market Street Grill or some other fine dining, not pizza. Pizza to me as a kid was totally common and nothing to get excited about!
It really made me stop and appreciate how good my life has been. It made all the "Poor Me" moments in the past seem so stupid! Not that getting deported was stupid, but you know what I mean.
I don't mean to sound like an after-school special. I really don't. It's just how I felt.
You know what made me feel the most guilty? When I left yesterday, I was filled with all this philanthropic motivation... "I'm going to volunteer at least once a week!" "I'm going to really dive into the communities and give back!" "I'm going to make a difference!"
The problem is that I feel that way every time I volunteer, and I never do anything about it. Work happens. Friends happen. LIFE happens, and the idea that I want to help just sort of falls to the back burner.
And I hate that.
So my goal is to get involved. This time FOR REAL.
So - to my friends - stop calling me. I have to contribute to the world! :0)
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