Friday, April 11, 2014

Elementary Lessons in Gratitude

Here's how we know that I'm a new volunteer at the elementary school where I'm a Reading Pal.  Yesterday I got a phone call to invite me to a volunteer appreciation breakfast next week--and I was thrilled.

I do feel undeserving of a breakfast.  I show up once a week, and I try to help one, single first grader to improve his reading skills.  How do we do this?

We have a book, a different one each week, and I encourage him to read to me.  I sing his praises while he's reading.  When he gets tired of being the one doing the reading, I read to him.  And then we color while we discuss words and the book we've been reading.

The coloring is not part of the official program.  I've brought in blank paper, so hopefully, I'm encouraging creativity.  I do fear that my Reading Pal sees the coloring as a reward for the work he doesn't enjoy much, the reading. 

He has improved.  Will he continue to improve when we're no longer reading together?  I have no idea.

I'm hoping that our time together gives him pleasant memories of reading, and that he'll not be as opposed to reading as he would have been if he hadn't been part of the program.  But I really have no idea if it will work that way.

As I said, I come in one day a week for just one hour.  There are plenty of volunteers who do far more than I do.  They deserve a breakfast.

Still, I'll go, even though I don't do as much as I wish that I could.

I'm sure that my sense of happiness yesterday also came from being amazed that the school is saying thank you.  My regular work life doesn't have much in the way of please and thank you these days.  My grown up school seems to have forgotten the basic lessons that so many of us learned long ago in our elementary school days.

I try to remember to thank my faculty for the great work that they're doing.  I hope they don't feel that I never say please or thank you.  Every week I resolve to say those words more.

Happily, my volunteer site hasn't forgotten those basic lessons of please and thank you.  And so I will go and be appreciated.

I think of this issue of saying please and thank you when it comes to church too.  Do we say please and thank you enough as a church?

And there's the issue of volunteers.  So many churches run their essential services with a system of volunteers--and it's often a very small band of volunteers.  How can we show them more appreciation?  How can we keep them from burning out?

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