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Tiny Red Chairs This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

For most students at my high school, Wednesday night is arguably the longest night of the school week. It's the night where students are catching up on two full days worth of homework because they decided not to do any over the course of the two preceding block days. It's the night where they stare hopelessly at an intimidating page of numbers and symbols, wishing their Calculus equations would integrate themselves and wondering why they didn't take statistics instead. It's the night before the lenient bell schedule returns to its unforgiving self and each student's glimmering flame of hope for sleeping in the next morning fades into nothing more than an evanescent memory. I, on the other hand, found it in myself to consider this most dreaded of nights the highlight of my week. Not because I am insane enough to enjoy doing homework until the early hours of the morning, but because I volunteered as a leader in the Children's Ministries program at my church every Wednesday evening.

On the first Wednesday of the school year, I arrived at the church at 5:45 pm sharp dressed in the annoyingly vibrant red t-shirt that I was handed when I committed to volunteering. I wandered silently into my designated room: Room Six. It was also used as a preschool classroom, which became apparent the moment I stepped through the doorway. Bright orange paper pumpkins for the month of October were dangling from the ceiling and abstract works of art drawn with crayons were taped to the walls. I sat at a tiny table surrounded by even tinier red chairs waiting for the little ones to show up and wondering what on earth I would talk to them about. I figured that most of them were here only because their parents wanted a night of daycare each week and they didn't really care about memorizing bible verses or spending time with a leader they knew nothing about.

At six o'clock on the dot, four second grade children came half-sprinting, half-stumbling through the door, out of their parents' protective arms and into the tiny red chairs scattered before me. They displayed toothy, ear-to-ear smiles and carefree attitudes that gave me an unexpected sense of enthusiasm to be spending two hours of my Wednesday nights with them each week.

Soon, I began to look forward to Wednesday nights, and even became disappointed when 7:30 came around and parents began to show up to take their kids home. I loved seeing the happiness in their faces when they would recite a verse for memory and I would hold up my hand for a well-deserved high-five. They told me about the (not-so-secret) secret code that they talked to each other in and what they were learning about in school. They sometimes asked me what I was learning, and although they didn't retain what I told them, they listened intently while coloring wildly outside of the lines on their worksheets.

A few weeks in, one of them reluctantly asked, “Excuse me?”

“Yes, Caleb?”

“Are you in high school?”

“Yes, I'm in eleventh grade.”

At this, his eyes suddenly lit up and he replied with, “Can you teach me high school math??? PLEEAASSEE??”

“Yeah!! Teach us what you learn in high school!” Another chimed in.

It wasn't long until all of them were begging to learn about the perilous downfall of every high school student. I felt a smile spread across my face. In my life, I had never met a single kid who had just spent an entire day in school, learning for six hours straight, and came home the same day wanting to learn even more. Yet there I was sitting in a room with four of the exceptions.

So I gave in to their insistent pleading and tried to explain the simplest things I could remember, but when double digit multiplication and long division only brought about looks of confusion and wariness, I simply wrote down the largest numbers I could think of and told them to use addition and subtraction. Although the kind of math I had them do would not help them in school, they exhibited such a fantastic sense of pride when they got the correct answer, that you would've thought they had just conquered the universe.

They all showed incredible perseverance in the thirty or so weeks that I spent with them. There was a boy struggling to recite the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament for memory, but when he failed, he tried again week after week until he could practically do it in his sleep. There was a young girl with a competitive spirit, striving to run the relay faster and faster each time because she wanted to win against the boys. Then there were the four kids in my room. Their goal of learning high school math was their highest priority. After they succeeded at one problem, they wanted another, but more difficult. Their insatiable hunger for knowledge and their persistence in everything they did was beautiful to me. I felt as if I was sitting back, watching an entirely new generation grow right before my eyes.

For me, there was no reward greater than helping these kids learn. But it also went the other way around. Through the experience I had working with them, the kids helped me come to realize my true calling. Pursuing a career as a Pediatric Nurse became my clear dream only because I eventually came to love everything about working with the children that I met in Room Six. I came to love the messy crafts hanging around the room for decoration. I came to love the tiny red chairs. Even Wednesday nights began to grow on me. The only reason I signed up to volunteer in the first place was to get hours of community service for college applications, but I ended up with so much more. The experience I had with them has led me to believe with all my heart that it is absolutely remarkable what you can find when you're not looking.

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LydCB said...
today at 5:47 pm:
I love it!!
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gowritingmusic said...
yesterday at 9:39 pm:
WOW!!! love it:)
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