Better Together

by Larissa

There’s this kindergartener. She’s about three and a half feet tall with wild ringlets. Creamy complexion. Big, dark brown eyes. She’s beautiful, lively, and rambunctious. And very practiced in the art of tantrum-throwing…

We were in the middle of transitioning from homework time to snack time, which meant that several kids were anxiously waiting for instructions. And when I say ‘waiting’, I mean, scattering around the Orange Room (where I’m the room leader) with excitement.

The lively kindergartener was skipping from one end of the room to the other. All of a sudden, she tripped over one of the tiny chairs in our tight space. I was watching from the corner of my eye, but I’m fairly positive that after tripping she fell into the wall and slid onto the floor.

When she began crying, I attempted to find a way to her from where I was across the room. At the right moment, Andrew, one of our coordinators came in from the other entrance.  He knelt down, scooped the girl into his arms and quietly held her until the loud cries became muted sniffling. She quickly grew calm as he made sure she was alright.

After a few seconds, Andrew asked her if she wanted to ‘go see Larissa’. I waited for her to make a decision while simultaneously directing the rest of the children. Multi-tasking at it’s finest.

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She paused, nodded firmly, and ran to me with open, vulnerable arms. Effortlessly, I caught her in my embrace.

And then we headed towards the snack room…

As we were traveling in a line through #20’s narrow hallway, Amy A. stepped out of the Library (where she’s the room leader). She saw the little girl in my arms, noticed the distress, came over, and spoke to her with tender affection. In that gentle, beautiful way that Amy A. has. The way that makes you feel secure almost instantaneously. The kindergartener loosened up, no longer hiding her face in my jacket.

And then we finished snack…

During activities time, my group was sitting in a circle, playing hot potato. Joe, a high school volunteer, was between the young girl and myself. If you were watching her carry on with the other children you wouldn’t realize that less than an hour ago, this same girl had been in near hysterics.

Bursts of laughter, bright smiles, and pure fun filled the room as innocent joy poured out from her. You can bet that both Joe and I seized every chance we had to ensure that nothing would hinder that joy. With our words and actions we showed her that she truly mattered and that we’d be there for her.

And she left wearing a radiant smile and full of joy…

There is one main reason I decided to share this story in particular:

At the PEACE Afterschool Program, we are a team.

There are so many more benefits to working in a team than just crowd control. It’s more than having enough volunteers around to help clean up afterwards.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done that afternoon without Andrew, Amy A., and Joe. I probably could have consoled the young kindergartner well enough. But, she should have more than well enough.

Nearly everywhere she turned, there was someone else willing to love and encourage her.

 She was surrounded by people who saw her as cherished. As she went from room to room she

encountered wave after wave of love.
Sounds awesome, right? It gets even more awesome.
That happens every day we are at #20!  Among all of the volunteers.

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That’s one of my favorite aspects of being a part of the PEACE Program.  We’re in it together. We all want to see the children that walk through our doors flourish. So, together, we do what we can to help that vision come alive. Sometimes, it might just be consoling a crying kindergartener. Other times it might be a ‘you’re-amazing!’ when a second grader finishes all one hundred math facts. But, whatever it is, we can figure it out together. We can do so much more together.

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