Service Before Self

“I’m so nervous, what if none of the kids want to come to me?”
“What if I sit there alone the whole time, what if...”

I wipe my moist hands on the bus seat as I anxiously shoot what if situations to my best friend. I glance out the window as my anxiety grows. My tummy is full of wild butterflies as I try and breathe slower as a way to tame them.
“Don’t worry Andrea; I’m sure someone will come to you.”

With a sputter the old Interact bus comes to a halt. We have arrived at the Umom Shelter in Phoenix, Arizona. My English teacher and Interact coordinator jumps up and hurries to sign us in. Our school’s community service club has agreed to volunteer at the Umom Shelter. We are only some of about 45 volunteers participating in tonight’s activity. We will be reading to a variety of less fortunate children in hope of creating a warm and friendly environment.

I know I probably shouldn’t be nervous. I mean they are all kids under fifteen, they’re probably more nervous than I am, but unfortunately I am. My heart is pounding like a stampede of elephants, and there seems no hope for relieving my jitters. But like a trooper I silently enter the shelter. I glance around and a wave of a nauseous feeling hits me. I feel as if I am reliving the first day of high school again.

Immediately the event coordinator goes off into a speech that seems like she has rehearsed it several times.
“You must not encourage them to hug you, turn to the side and receive the hug like that.”
“Why would I be so cold to them?” I wonder. “They’re just children; they don’t have any bad intentions.

After receiving the opening lecture from the coordinator, we are allowed to roam the room and pick a spot to sit with our kids. I scan over the titles of the books and grab a few at random. I pick a spot over towards the back, and then I wait.

I sat there waiting for about ten minutes, I sat alone. My dreams have come true. Anxiously I glance around and I spot two girls crawling around. “Now’s my chance!” I think. I rush over armed with Tigger; I Spy and chase the girls down. Finally I’m able to settle them down enough to take them to my reading spot.

The girls are four and five according to their name tags that also say that their names are Mary and Nevaeh. Mary is very talkative and outgoing will Nevaeh is shy and reserved. Although Nevaeh is older than Mary she does not say one word. Her sentences are limited to grunting and whining. Mary seems like a very good friend as she takes Nevaeh’s feelings into account while we look through the I Spy book.
“Hey, hey, let Nevaeh find this one.” Mary constantly whines. And Nevaeh quietly and shyly points at the object.

Suddenly it makes me wonder how long these girls have known each other? Did they just meet yesterday or last week? Even so, Mary’s caring demeanor towards Nevaeh seems genuine. It kind of makes me think of my relationship with my best friend. However, these girls have no idea if they might see each other ever again. My heart aches as I wonder what the future holds in store for these girls, however it makes me feel better to think that there always is at least one person who will always put their well-being first. It might be a new friend, or even a volunteer who wishes to make their day. No matter who it is, I’m sure they will be okay. Thanks to all the caring people who give up their time in order to alleviate the worry of the reality. I then know that I want to continue volunteering, I want to be able to be that person that looks out for those who need it most, I want to be able to be someone’s Mary, even if that means having to deal with my own nervousness.





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