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Planting Seeds This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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When I began volunteering as a mentor at a local elementary school, I was brimming with ideals and confidence. I boldly ventured forth to train the next generation of great leaders, my rose-colored glasses perched firmly on my nose, optimistically expecting to transform lives forever.

As it turns out, real life lacks the glamor of my sparkling ambitions. In fact, the first few mentoring sessions left me more disappointed and confused than motivated. No matter how carefully I planned the day's character-building activities, the antsy eight-year-olds steadfastly refused to cooperate. They squirmed through the games, whispered during story time, and flat-out ignored me in group lessons.

“Ramon, give those cookies back to Summer right now and apologize,” I would sigh wearily for the hundredth time, glancing at my watch yet again. Each mentoring session was an ­endless cycle of graham cracker crumbs, Simon Says, and constant misbehaving.

After several exhausting weeks, I began to question whether I was making any impact. My flawless lessons about sharing, kindness, and integrity soared straight through the children's heads, in one ear and out the other. None of them remembered or cared about the lessons from one week to the next. Like a hamster running in an endless wheel, I seemed to exhaust all my energy without getting anywhere. Discouraged and defeated, I often wondered – was I wasting my time?

One afternoon, as I finished ­packing up my crayon boxes and crumpled coloring sheets, a veteran mentor named Lisa gave me a much-needed hug. More importantly, she gave me words of guidance and ­encouragement.

“I know it's tough,” she said wryly, “all worthwhile things are. But you've got to keep at it. The fruit'll come if you keep gardening.”

These words of wisdom proved to be the turning point in my attitude toward volunteering.

Slowly, with the help of my parents and fellow mentors like Lisa, I began to realize what I now firmly believe: I am planting seeds. I will never attain perfection. The kids will probably never sit still or give me their full attention or repeat after me. But maybe, just maybe, they'll remember a tiny grain of the lessons I teach. With time and occasional “watering,” maybe those seeds will blossom.

Every day, I see small steps: Ace sits still and listens, Karla raises her hand before speaking, and miracle of miracles, Ramon apologizes to Summer without being told to. Small progress, but progress nonetheless. While I may never see the ultimate fruit of my labor, I can march on and trust that I have not sown these seeds in vain.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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ElsaM said...
Nov. 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm
How true. You did a great job. 
 
Madison E. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm
Wow! Inspiring and EXTREMELY well-written. I love that quote by Thoreau you used :)
 
Katherine F. said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 11:17 am
Wow! Great article and very inspiring! Thank you from Switzerland.
 
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