Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Kinder, Gentler World

I was going to post this a couple of days ago, then I got sidetracked. But today someone told me that I haven't worked for twenty years, so now I am focused. I was very blessed that I did not need to work outside the home while raising my kids. But cooking, cleaning, and so forth aside, I had a lot of discretionary time during school days. So I volunteered. I took training at Learning Disabilities of Minnesota, learned how to be a mediator for children with learning disabilities in the school system. I also volunteered at my childrens' schools. There was a woman who wanted me to be a part of her pyramid scheme who asked in contempt one day why I 'wasted' so much time doing unpaid work when I could be making big bucks.

This is a little bit of why. The people I trained with at LDM in St. Paul ended up making $45 an hour in The Cities for what I did in Duluth for nothing. I did it because I had a child who needed an Individualized Education Program (IEP), so I knew what other parents and students went through. Most of the people I helped in Duluth couldn't come close to affording $45 an hour. During one session, a mother and a bus driver got into an argument so heated that I literally put my body on the table between them. Once I got them settled down, they talked and came to an agreement that was better than anything I would have dreamt up. I knew a teacher/counselor who was magic at writing IEPs, which can be quite an ordeal. I took a sample of hers to several mediations and both school staff and parents were thrilled and relieved to be able to streamline the process.

The best reasons for donating my time, though, were the little ones. I spent so much time at my kids' school that, if staff needed me during the day, they would page me on the school intercom before they even tried my home or cell numbers. I went on every field trip for both kids. I graded papers and tutored reading in my son's class. It was really rewarding to see the progress the students made because I was able to give them individual attention.

This is Andre doing Jumprope for Heart.

He was quite a character. He called me Mom. When we went on field trips, my daughter held one hand and Andre held the other.

This little guy was quite a challenge.

I tutored him in reading and math, and he took part in math games groups. He had a hard time keeping his bottom in the chair. During one math group, he was all over the place. I asked him a couple of times to sit down and finally put my hand on his arm and asked him. He said, "Linda, I CAN'T! I have ants in my pants." Well, okay then. Carry on. After a few weeks, he would sit quietly next to me during math games, with his head on my shoulder. He and others wanted to hold my hand during field trips. I ran out of hands and had to resort to arms. The year after he was in my daughter's class, I was putting stuff on the wall outside the school library. He walked by, saw me, and ran over to give me a big hug. He had the biggest smile on his face when he told me, "Linda, I haven't gotten even one warning all year!"

So to those who say if you don't get paid it doesn't count, here's to Bill and Lois, Jane, Di and Tracy, all the gals at CEC, everyone at YFS. Not getting money, but making a difference in someone's life, and possibly the world. Priceless.


Anonymous Di said...

Wow,Linda,you just made me cry. To actually consider what I do to be even remotely close to what you have done and still do,is beyond my comprehension. But thank you very much for the acknowledment. It is always good to have someone notice what you are doing to try to help. There are so many kids out there in this sometimes cold and cruel world that need people like you. God bless you for all that you do.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Mom Thumb said...

di - So, how many decades have you been in CEC? I don't think you have any idea how many lives you have touched. And you do it in your 'spare' time!

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Lois said...

All I can say is "WOW"!!! Here you lived next door to me, and I never knew you did all that volunteering. You are really one super gal!!!

11:59 AM  
Blogger Harmonica Man said...

It's usually what doesn't pay is what counts the most. And you're living proof of that!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Mom Thumb said...

lois - Probably because you were out volunteering! :-)

h-man - Actually, I got paid with smiles and hugs and kisses. The kids in Jessica's class all wrote me thank you notes at the end of the year. They are in a box that I'm grabbing on my way out if my house is ever on fire!

1:52 PM  
Anonymous jess said...

You're why I always try to help people; you've been an inspiration in my life since forever. People ask me why I do things like volunteer, help people, even just talk to them, and you're in my explanation at least twice. I bet I'm not the only one.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Mom Thumb said...

jess - wow, that's very flattering. I'm glad that you think it's important to be of service to others. We have had some fun times volunteering together!

2:05 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

You are awesome. Really.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Mom Thumb said...

heather - I'm thinking maybe I can find a lost island that needs a volunteer. You know, to spiff it up a little. Could happen.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous TracyH said...

Linda, you brought tears to my eyes with that post. You've always been an incredible person in my eyes. Oh, and BTW, Di has been in CEC for over 20 years.

3:34 PM  

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