My neighbor Linda has a wonderful success story. She started mentoring a boy from a poor family when he was in elementary school, continued to help him when he was in junior high and high school and watched him succeed in college.
Primarily because of Linda’s urging, I volunteered to be a mentor at an elementary school the year my son Jay left for college.
The first year I volunteered, my child never seemed eager to see me—until I started bringing him cookies. He put up with reading lessons as long as I rewarded him with something good to eat.
When he moved to another school, I started helping a very sweet girl who always seemed delighted to see me and smiled throughout our lessons. I looked forward to our once-a-week sessions. But she moved, too.
Since January, I have been helping a second grader with math. For months, she spoke in a soft voice that I could barely understand and always had a somber look on her face. Although she still needs help with math, recently she has started speaking up and even giggling when I tell her a joke.
Now she, too, has announced that she is moving and will be attending a different school during the next school year.
Of course, I’ll volunteer to help another child in August. That child also may move. Frequent moves are a common pattern for families struggling with poverty.
I no longer expect to have a wonderful success story like Linda’s success story. I hope only to make small changes in a child’s life.
When I get discouraged, I try to remember Mother Teresa’s words: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”