Reading To Raul This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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“Where’s Abby? We can’t start until Abby gets here.” The joy and excitement expressed in Raul’s voice when he said my name only made me want to come back again.

UMOM New Day Center, a facility that helps homeless families in Phoenix receive an education and get back on their feet, was the place that enriched my Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As I walked down the hand printed hallways with the other volunteers, all I could hear was the million complaints about having to do two hours of community service. Rather than play on the Playstation or watch TV, they would have to take care of a couple toddlers. Community service was like taking an AP test for these other teen volunteers. I must admit, I was a little agitated myself. Entering a new facility, full of new people, doing a job I knew nothing about was not my idea of fun.

After about a three minute orientation of the facility and it’s faculty members, we were let loose to the monstrous actions of the toddlers. Paint flying one way, toys flying the other, screaming all around, and kids not listening, nothing could have gone worse. It was only a painful half an hour later until it was time to go to the library and read to the children.

I was partnered up with Raul, who had not been with me for my first encounter with UMOM. As an alternative to the Incredible Hulk or Transformers books the other six year-old boys wanted to read, Raul picked the book titled, “The Giving Tree.” This was a simple short story, with simple pictures, and a simple theme. Raul told me it was his favorite book, and he has been waiting for someone to read it just the right way. As I opened the first page, Raul inhaled as though he was taking in the scent of the cover being opened. Just the sound of the pages sweeping by each other gave him the chills. I began reading in hopes of living up to his expectations.

I finished the book, and to my surprise, Raul said nothing. He simply took the book from my hands, put it back on the shelf, and walked out of the library. Thoughts were flying through my mind the way a moth flutters around a light. Did I really read it that poorly? Should I have used different voices? Was there something else I said earlier he found offensive? What on earth made him react that way?

After it was time for the kids to go with their parents, Hayley, the girl who had taught me how to handle the day care center, came to me and asked me how I did that. “Did what?” All I thought I did was scare and innocent six year-old. “How did you read that book to Raul?” “You are the first person he has ever let read past the first page.” All I could do now was smile.

It was at that moment I understood the joy of community service. The point is not to please myself or just get through it; the point is to do something good for your community. Help those in need because of the moral and personal value it has. Do something to make the lives of others more enjoyable.

The following Tuesday, Raul was waiting for me at the same table, with the same book, and a smile as wide as the room. He sat and listened as I started to read the ever so simple story. And according to him, no one could read it better.





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