A Check Off the List

At the end of last summer, I completed a personal milestone (and no, it wasn’t turning 25…yuck).

I finished my term of AmeriCorps!

Let’s take a peek at the numbers, shall we?

6000. Approximate amount of scholarship.

1700. Hours of community service completed.

42. Number of kids served.

6. Number of families I feel I impacted.

9. Lasting friendships made with other AmeriCorps.

4. People I can count on for a great recommendation.

12. Months of service.

1. Child I continue to mentor.

2. Bitter relationships left over.

1,560. Approximate number of life lessons learned.

Everything else can’t be broken down into numbers. I learned a lot last year–about myself, and about others. Were these the lessons I thought I would learn? Not even close.

At the beginning of the year, we wrote ourselves a letter detailing what we expected from the next twelve months.

It was a depressing letter because everything I wrote about had in fact, not happened. I wasn’t staying another year in AmeriCorps as I had assumed, the Boyfriend and I were not ready to be engaged (and still aren’t) and I’m still uncertain how much of an impact I had on the kids.

However, I did learn how to be professional, even if I’m brawling or bawling inside.

I did learn bucket loads about the systems here in the United States: the immigration system, the health care system, the education system.

I learned how to get over my fear of public speaking.

I learned how to network.

I learned how to quiet down a class of middle-schoolers and gain their (temporary) respect.

I learned how to make my hair look semi-professional on a regular basis.

I learned how to go to a 9-6 job every day, and make it there (mostly) on time.

I learned how to live with a boy.

I learned how to survive a commute and drive in the big city.

Most of all, I learned that life rarely follows a plan, and that it’s really hard to let go of the plan you wanted to have.

Although it’s cliche, John Lennon said it best: “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

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INSPIRED.

So.

Sometimes, the kids drive me crazy. Sometimes, they hurt my soul. Sometimes, they flummox me so much my brain hurts.

And sometimes, they show me the way.

There is this one boy, a fairly newcomer to the Opportunity Center, who is always one of the highlights of my day. My boss mentioned how when he enters a room he just lights it up, and it’s true.

Several weeks ago, this boy, we’ll call him A., wrote a letter, out of nowhere, about Invisible Children.

A non-profit for a terrible situation that I had vaguely heard about, but really hadn’t looked into.

Then, I read A’s letter, and I felt the world shift a little under my feet. Here is a 12-year-old boy, a refugee from Africa himself, who is living in public housing with about a dozen other people in a tiny house, and HE is more concerned about this than I am.

And I claim to want to travel the world helping these folks.

So, now, I’m helping A find a way to help these people.

And you can too:

Just click here.

If A doesn’t inspire you, what will?

p.s. I know the video went viral today, but despite that, this is an important and real issue that A and other kids that I work with have firsthand knowledge of. I know it’s easy to scoff at the media and you should question before you give, but anything that draws attention to the plight of Africa is a good start.

It’s a Puzzle

I work with one particular boy who consistently gets in his way.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the kids I work with do this, and a lot of people in general do this.

(Myself, for one, but let’s not go down that road).

Not long ago, this kid, we’ll call him M, finally seemed to find an activity that kept him out of trouble and quiet. This kid, from the first day I started, was a headache. That sounds mean, but seriously, I could not reach this child. I could see his pain and feel  his anger, but I could not find anything beneath those masks with which I could connect.

Then, we went shopping and bought some new puzzles, and my boss convinced M to get started on a bada** one with a bunch of dragons with a tantalizing offer:  finishing the puzzle would equal keeping the puzzle.

What a boon.

M worked diligently on his puzzle for days. When he finally reached the last few pieces and found one missing, we were all close to devastated.

When another sharp-eyed student spotted the missing piece, my boss went right over to tell M the good news. He came back and happily added the last piece.

And the next day?

M destroyed the whole thing.

It breaks my heart to see a glimmer of something in a child, and then before you know it, the window is slammed shut.

I’ve never seen a glimmer in M again, and we rarely ever see him anymore.

All I can do is hope–someday–he’ll remember that someone believed in him in enough to encourage him to something as simple as a puzzle, and that someone is there if he needs help achieving more.

Sometimes, we see a glimmer in someone and we never see it again. I guess that’s how life is–we’re all just a bunch of ships passing in the night, and sometimes a lantern turns on. Sometimes it stays on, sometimes it burns out, sometimes it blinds you, sometimes it warms you.

courtesy of wikipedia.com

And every light is beautiful. Perhaps the ones that are just a flash are the ones we’ll remember most–but boy, it’s hard to remember and never get to see more.

I Look Like Lady Gaga

Today, I wore this to work:

cute boots, right? and I'm not sure the picture does justice to my MUSTARD tights.

It is by far not the craziest thing I’ve ever worn. (My affinity for orange should be a clue there. And my favorite shirt used to say “Donde estas mi pantalones?” And no, I did not fully understand what that meant at the time).

My outfit consisted of a blue dress, black cardigan, the boooots (I have a serious boot addiction) and, of course, the mustard yellow tights.

I love my mustard tights. They’re fun and bright and remind me of fall and brighten up any dull outfit. Since I have to actually dress like a professional now, most of my clothes haven’t been very colorful. So I needed these tights.

(Backstory: I bought them on sale at a Macy’s on Black Friday in Seattle. With my grandma. She seemed fairly shocked by my color choice, and her favorite color is red. Maybe she was just shocked that I wear them with skirts that are above my knees. But still. Some of my cousins show more cleavage than I do and they’re like, 15. Plus my sister insists on wearing everything XXS even though she should totally switch to medium by now. Not that you shouldn’t flaunt it if you’ve got it, sister. And cousins.)

ANYWAY.

The response to my outfit was unexpected. It was quite a sensation.

“I love your outfit! Those earrings! Your hair!” *Said by one of my co-workers at our monthly breakfast meeting at Snoooooze!

“Amy! Look at your boots!” *Another co-worker.

You’re getting the picture: for the first half of the day, I was a hit. Once the kids started arriving, however…

“Miss Amy, did you tan your legs?” *Several kids said this in jest. One kid said it earnestly. But really, who has ever had legs that color? Not even my lifeguard co-worker in high school had legs that color, and she had a natural tan plus a fake tan.

“What are you wearing, Miss Amy? You look like a witch.” *Said by two kids on separate occasions, so this was not a copycat case.

“You look like Alice in Wonderland!”

“No, she looks like Lady Gaga! (GaGa?)” *Two kids arguing over who I looked like.

“I’ve got it! You look like an Oompa Loompa!” *My always sweet and complimentary boyfriend. Most of the kids are too young to understand the joys of Willy Wonka as portrayed by Gene Wilder and his creepy Oompas or else I’m sure I would have heard this before. At least his reference dates him.

So there you have it folks. I’m a weird congolmeration of two beloved fiction characters, one of our most insane (and well-known) current pop stars, and an evil lady who lures children into her cabin in the woods.

Although maybe I could be a nice witch.

But they probably don’t wear mustard tights.