After devoting the first 14 years of my life in athletics, I wanted to give back to my community before the close of my senior year in high school. My decision to take part in a service program ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. In October of 2011, I applied to the Family and Children’s Agency to become a “Big Friend” to child in need of a mentor. The Family and Children’s Agency is a non-profit family service organization that aids children, adults and families across Connecticut. The program is a year-long commitment; one must devote a few hours each week to engage in fun, safe activities and serve as a support system to a child. Such mentoring relationships prove to result with many long-term benefits, including improved self-confidence and school performance, reduced incidents of crime, and greater expectations for one’s future. As soon as I was matched with 5th grader, Allie, it became my responsibility to model appropriate behavior, be an avid listener and provide encouragement to her on a weekly basis for the rest of the school year.
After my first time meeting Allie, I knew we were going to be a great match simply because we are so much alike. Allie is extremely outgoing; she loves to meet new people and make new friends. I soon learned that Allie rarely has an opportunity to do fun activities or spend time with friends due to a difficult family situation. Therefore, I took the initiative to structure creative, memorable activities that will hopefully shape her childhood for the better.
One important lesson that Allie learned was that it is okay to make mistakes. No one is perfect so evidently, mistakes will be forgiven. One prevalent aspect of the mentoring program was introducing your “little friend” to new experiences and activities. One weekend in April, Allie tried rock climbing for the first time. She found herself frustrated over the course of the day simply because the activity was new and rather difficult as she had never been exposed to anything similar in the past. Tears streamed down her face, as she couldn’t figure out how to maneuver from one hinge to the next on the rock. She hid her face in embarrassment and hoped I had not seen her break down. I realized her reaction was primarily caused by her home life. Allie’s parents had extremely high expectations for her, even at the mere age of ten. She learned at a young age that it was not acceptable to cry, hence, the reason why she began to hide her feelings. This concept is similar to the narrator’s behavior in The Yellow Wallpaper. The narrator is faced with many mental constraints, which prevent the ability of expressing oneself and ultimately cause her “nervous troubles” when dealing with her husband, John. (389) Part of my job included reaching out to Allie and letting her know that expressing emotion is a normal and healthy way of communication.
It was also important for Allie to learn the lesson that humanity is imperfect, a lesson which also appears in Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Birthmark. Hawthorne states, “with her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy his highest and deepest conception.” The reader notices Aylmer’s addiction to perfection is encapsulating his mind. In reality, nothing in the physical world is perfect, and therefore, it is more than acceptable to make mistakes, especially when trying something new.
Finishing my service project was incredibly rewarding and provided me with new insight on communicating effectively with people. The program lifted my heart as I noticed how much happier Allie appeared to be each week. Allie’s gradual happiness is reminiscent of the speaker’s transition from loneliness to happiness in William Wordsworth’s poem, I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud. Seeing the smile on her face at the end of each week made my job much more meaningful.