Carmen, our site director at PTM’s Park Avenue/Crosspoint site, brought her children with her to the afterschool program. They are both under four and are normally at their grandparents’ house, but this was an unusual day. Surprisingly (though it shouldn’t be a surprise) their presence added a lot to the PTM students’ experience.
According to Carmen, “one of the volunteers came up to me and said that she was so glad that I brought my children to the program because it gave her an opportunity to see our students as givers…they were able to shower my kids with love…they shared their snack, they carried them on the playground, they took care of them, they watched over them. So often, we only see the kids that are involved in our programs as recipients…not as givers. That day changed her perspective on how she viewed our students. They, too, were givers…benefactors. They had something very powerful to contribute. They had exactly what my kids needed.”
I have noticed that same powerful exchange at other PTM programs. At the Wilson Center, there is a young kindergartener with special needs. Our students take turns caring for him, making sure he gets to the bus, and walking him inside his home at the end of the day. They protect him and stick up for him, and these helping students experience the joy of being on the giving end.
During the junior high program, there is a 6th grader with special needs. One of our 8th grade girls works with him on a computer-based program to learn his letter sounds. It is a true joy to watch her patience and her kindness as she puts his needs above her own.
Almost daily one of our SaLT students is at PTM’s Wilson Center mentoring a younger student, modeling for him or her a serious and joyful approach to learning. It is hard to tell who benefits more. The line between giver and receiver becomes blurry as we build “joy-filled friendships”—friendships in which we both benefit and give. I am thankful that God works that way and allows us our most abundant joy when we are able to give of ourselves—it’s a joy I am so glad for our students at PTM to know.