Every Wednesday I get on the bus and travel to a nearby elementary school to participate in the Kids Hope USA Program. Also known as Lunch Buddies, Kids Hope is a national program meant to make a positive difference in the lives of at-risk children. The goal of the program is to develop supportive one-on-one relationships by creating church-school partnerships that pair up church members with an at-risk child.
This child might have a negative home environment, have trouble fitting in at school, or simply just need a little bit of extra care and attention. Kids Hope mentors meet their child for just one hour a week at their school, to talk, eat lunch with them, and generally just offer support and love.
One hour definitely doesn’t seem like much time, but the difference it can make is immeasurable. Every Wednesday, I watch my 8-year-old partner’s eyes light up when he sees me waiting for him in his school cafeteria. I am always greeted with a hug and a drawing that he made for me that week.
Though I have been visiting him on a regular basis for awhile now, my Kids Hope buddy is still as excited and surprised to see me as he was on the first day we met. Every week he always tells me how happy he is to see me and how he “can’t believe I came.”
His teachers and counselor have told me that since I started visiting, there has been a new spark in him that wasn’t there before. He never hesitates to talk about how much he enjoys my visits and always lets me know that he looks forward to them all week.
Going into this program, I doubted that I could really make that much of a difference in a child’s life while allotted only one hour a week. Yet, this experience has truly taught me how much value there is in simply being present for someone else.
No, maybe I cannot improve this child’s home life or help him fit in better at school, as much as I wish I could. But what I can do is be someone he can count on. I can make him feel smart, valued, and cared about.
I think that in college especially, it is easy to get caught up in the daily stresses of our own lives. While consumed in our own problems, we can quickly lose perspective on what is actually important in life.
Before I joined this program I was searching for something more in my own life. As someone who struggles a lot with anxiety and worry, I often find it really beneficial to turn my attention and care to others. By turning our focus outside of ourselves and onto someone else, our personal stresses can shrink in comparison.
Though I joined Kids Hope to help someone else, I found myself greatly rewarded in the process.
I like to think that I have played some part in teaching this child the value of self-reliance, trust, and confidence. Yet, in all honestly, I know he has taught me much more than I could ever teach him. Though only 8 years old, this little boy had reminded me to look for the small joys in life and appreciate the little things. He has made me grateful for the many blessings I have in my own life and shown me that sometimes the best thing we can do for someone else is to just keep showing up.