Sunday, December 14, 2008
"You have not lived until you've found something worth dying for."
I saw the above quote on a commercial for the show Whale Wars on Animal Planet. If you haven't seen the show, it's a documentary series about a group of people from all over the world called the Sea Shepherds who sale the ocean "hunting" Japanese illegal whale poachers. I love watching the show because it's about people coming together, literally putting their life on the line every day ready to die for something they truly believe in. They are making a difference in the world, and as one of the woman aboard the fleet tells the others in the premier episode, they are one small crew out of the millions of people in the world who care enough to take to the sea and fight for the whales. It may sound dramatic and as many people will say "they're only whales," but this is touching to me. These are the kind of people that I someday want to be surrounded by.
It's not the saving of the whales that I love about the show; it's the fact that the people on board the boat (named the Steve Irwin) wake up every morning with meaning in their lives, knowing they are making a difference in the world. This is the reason I have such a hard time with school- I get caught up in everything going on around me and forget what I am passionate about. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking, breathing, and going to class, but I'm not really alive.
I started a new job working for the town of Cheshire, CT's youth and social service department. Working at this job, along with working with the kids this summer in California, has really given me a new meaning in my life. My mom really wants me to be a teacher, and I think that someday I will. Once I finish my undergraduate studies at the University of New Haven, I'm really, really considering a Masters degree in Urban Studies. If my grades are good these next four semesters, I may even apply to Yale's one year program.
On Saturday mornings through my new job I participate in a something called the Youth Literacy Program (YLP). It's a great program that matches high school aged mentors with first graders, teaching them how to read and write. I feel that having a mentor in ones life is one of the greatest thing that can be provided for a child; one who is guided in the right direction will never stray in the wrong. I never really had a consistent mentor in my life, yet I had a great loving family who supported me growing up and has filled that void. Many kids don't have a supportive family life, are missing a parent, or deal with problems in their home that I seem unrealistic to most people. I talked about being able to recognize "pain in the eyes" of an animal in my last blog; well, I've seen it in the eyes of many children that I have talked to, and sometimes I think that my reason for waking up in the morning is to help kids who have that "pain."
Saturday morning I didn't want to go to work. I stayed up until almost five in the morning hanging out with friends and when my alarm went off at 7:30 and then 8:15, I thought about calling out. I have to say that one of my personal strengths is holding myself accountable for my actions, so whether I was tired or not, I was going to go to work.
When the morning started at 9:30, and then the kids started filing in at 10, I was disappointed in myself for ever wanting to call out of that job. One first grade boy who is aways smiling, came right up to me and hugged me. I probably said no more than two words to him the week before, yet somehow I had had enough impact on him for him to look forward to seeing me. I was speechless.
Because there are more first graders than high school mentors, I was paired off with my own "mentee" during the first week, and when she returned this week she was very excited to see me. We read a bunch of books, and I joked around with her, teaching her that she needed to eat her vegetables so that she could grow taller than her older sister, teaching her what snorkeling was, and also what "quo-a-shin" marks were and how they were used when people in stories spoke. Just watching her watch me talk motivates me to go to that job every Saturday morning. I know that on those mornings I am making a difference. Although I have a hard time attending my 8am class on Tuesday and Thursdays, I never will be late for that Saturday morning program at the Yellow House.