Saturday, April 9, 2016

Friday with Minions and munchkins

A few weeks ago, I started doing some volunteer tutoring in Clifton Park. CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services offers a number of programs and services through its outreach center at Cheryl's Lodge. After school tutoring is only one of them, but it is where I felt qualified to offer my services. 

The after school program is well-established and the paid staff at Cheryl's Lodge have a good system set up with the support and cooperation of the Shen school district. Elementary kids come in first and work for about an hour. When they leave, middle schoolers arrive, followed later by the high school students.

But on Fridays, the Shen elementary students don't get homework, so the staff at Cheryl's Lodge offer "Fun Friday" to those students who have come to the homework help all week. The students who have worked hard and behaved well get a ticket to attend on Friday.
If I am done with my own work early enough, I try to pop in to help with Fun Friday and then stay on to work with the middle school students, who usually DO have weekend homework. (I also volunteer on Mondays.)
 Can you guess what the theme was for this week's Fun Friday?  My goodness, did we have Minions! Many of the children wore Minion tee shirts and we had one nice Minion costume, perhaps re-purposed from Halloween.

There were Minion cupcakes and yellow juice for snacks, followed by a plethora of Minion activities. I think making Minion slime, above, was the most popular of those.
 When the slime was nicely set up, the kids decorated cups to take their share of the finished product home to play with later.

I have been retired from teaching for four years now. When I first retired, I confess to feeling that I had had enough of youthful angst to last me for a lifetime.  But gradually, I became aware that, despite being grateful for many blessings, maybe, just maybe, there was a little something missing in my life. Perhaps I still had some skills and experience that could be useful somewhere. And I think I have found that somewhere at Cheryl's Lodge.

Make no mistake: working with other people's children can sometimes be challenging. The children are often noisy, antsy, silly, or not perfectly behaved. But they are also often funny and smart and incredibly sweet and happy for adult attention. And when I can actually help an appreciative sixth grader understand her homework, well, that is just about the best feeling in the world.

There is an awful lot that needs to be done in this country. Finding a place where your available time, talents and skills match up well with the needs of an organization or cause can be tricky. But I urge you to try. To keep trying.

Last year, when I read a piece by David Brooks, his phrase about living your eulogy versus living your résumé stuck with me. It's not that I crave a glowing, lengthy obit. What I do need,  for myself, is to know that while I still have the luck of good health, enough time, and the resources, I am trying to do something, and to do it with love.

Ba na naaaaaaaa!*

*Ask any six year old. They will know.