Reading My Way Into Life

February 10, 2012
“Okay we’re here!” my teacher says as we reach a shelter to read to little kids. I remember being so nervous that my palms began to sweat. It wasn’t my first time doing community service, but it was my first time actually being with people who are less fortunate than I am. As I walked into the warm building away from the chilly night in Phoenix, Arizona, I was already expecting small children of all ages to be sitting on the tables and on the floor. Boy, was I wrong!

There were round tables, probably eight or ten; three of the tables were occupied by adults who were also volunteering. I signed in not knowing what to expect I was just confused. A woman, who worked at the UMOM shelter that sponsors the Tuesday Read-To-Me program, told my peers and I who were volunteering for this event to grab a tub of books and just randomly lay them on the table. As my friend and I laid the books on the table, I couldn’t help but notice many and many books that I remember reading when I was a kid. My childhood memories struck me like lightning. Once the books were on the table, I sat at a table that was somewhat near the corner and I listened to the woman explain the rules and what the shelter was all about. I didn’t really pay attention. I was reading a Charlie Brown book while she was talking. I remember her saying what to do when one of the children had to go to the bathroom, if they wanted to sit on your lap or when you got dumped (when the child gets bored and leaves). My friend and I began to crack jokes on who was going to get dumped or not, until I hear the woman say, “Oh look! Here come the kids!” Well here it goes.

I saw one little boy come into the room first, and then I saw a group of children come in and then the numbers just began to grow. “Okay this is it”, I thought to my self still scared. A small adorable girls walks near me, “Is she going to sit by me?” I thought until she walked right past me to sit by one of my classmates. I observed his actions just so I would get and idea on what to do when someone came to me. I sat at the table by myself until a girl named Yazmin came and sat by me. “Hi” I said to her. “Do you want me to read to you?” The girl nodded her hear. “Okay well do you see any books you like?” She was really quiet. I think she was shy. She picked up several books until she found one about fishes and the ocean. “You want me to read that one to you?” I asked. She nodded. Yazmin began to flip through the pages expecting words to be in there somewhere, but turns out the book was just a picture book. “This doesn’t have any words,” she stated. Confused, I looked at the book and said “really?” She kept flipping the pages. I didn’t want to be quiet so I kept pointed out things I saw in the pictures. “I wonder how they took all these pictures.” Yazmin asked me. “Hmm, I really don’t know maybe they went to the ocean?” I looked around the room and saw everyone with a child or two. “And they’re all homeless?” I thought to myself. I looked at Yazmin who continued to look at the pictures. “Where are the I Spy books?”she asked me. Unsure where they were, we went to the woman and asked. Yazmin grabbed two books and we returned to our table.

As we looked for the items in the book, a boy around the age of 10 came up to us and looked at the book. “Do you want to join us?” I asked him, he nodded and smiled. I made room for him to sit with us at the table. The sound of adults and children continued to fill the room. At some point Yazmin left leaving me with just the boy who continued searching for items in the book. “I’ll be back.” She said. She never came back. I was feeling a little bit tired when the boy started to yawn. “Are you tired?” I asked . “Yea,” he replied. Here I was sitting with a boy who doesn’t have a home of his own knowing that in a little bit I will be returning home and sleep on a king sized bed while he probably slept in a small bed in a small room with others. Even though it could’ve been false, I still felt guilty. I had everything I could have ever wanted when I was a child, and here they were trying to make the most with what they have. At around 8:00, the woman said to help our kids to pick out three books so they could talk with them for the night. I helped him pick out three books and saw him walk through the hallway with the other children. The volunteers picked up the books, put them back into the tubs, and left the building.

On the way home, my classmates and I started to talk about who got dumped, how adorable their kids were and how much fun we all had being there. I went home with a better perspective of life. Volunteering at the shelter made me realize that I should be thankful for what I had because there are people out there that would do anything to get the things I have. It also made me realize that I should be thankful for the life I had and currently have because someone somewhere is struggling to survive and I have a good life. I cant believe just reading to two kids made me think and change my views on life, but I’m glad that they did.





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