Wednesday, April 26, 2006


i was working with my kids last night. one of them was a girl i hadn't seen since the program i was coordinating ended last year. it was an amazing moment seeing her again. i decided to repost an entry i did last year from another blog. basically, this is why i volunteer.

so yesterday we took the girls to a day full of activities celebrating martin luther king's birthday. we started off at an southern christian leadership conference youth symposium dealing with poverty, education, and the juvenile justice system. it was dry and we were bored, so we left that borefest for a youth summit taking place at the mlk center. it was about devising non-violent strategies to handle violent situations. it was very engaging and the girls were active participants. i was so proud of them!

after the summit, there was a writing workshop for kids, so one of the girls (her name is karrie) and i stayed for the workshop. she learned techniques on how to keep her words flowing when she felt as though she was coming down with writers block. she really enjoyed the workshop and i enjoyed being there with her.

after the workshop, we headed to a poetry slam which was a continuation of the workshop. the room was filled to capacity and folks were getting up and reading poems about all kinds of things. karrie decides to add herself to the list of poets on the open mic list. i asked her was she sure and she said "yes, miss nikki. i really want to read this poem."

so when it's her turn to get up, she walks up hesitantly to the stage. the mc introduces her and talks to her a bit. he was amazed that someone so young (she's twelve year's old!)had the courage to walk up and do a poem in the middle of a room full of adults. she appeared unfazed which totally blew my mind!

she begins reading her poem entitled "soul sister". she talks of how she's got a soul sister who's powerful, a woman who makes her feel like she's the brightest star in the universe, someone who inspires her and encourages her to believe she can do anything, someone who she feel is her kindred spirit and has taught her how to be fearless.

then she ends the poem with "who is my soul sister? my soul sister is YOU!"...and proceeds to point DIRECTLY AT ME!

WHAT DA FUCK? she was talking about me the whole time! i burst into tears and almost ran out of the room. she got a standing ovation for her poem and then everyone turned to me and started clapping. the mc told the audience that i was her mentor and karrie told the audience that i was the inspiration for the poem!

it was at that very moment that it all came full circle for me. it wasn't about her writing a poem for me. it was about instilling within her the high self-esteem, courage and self-empowerment she would need to make it in the world on her terms. i realized then that she got it. she got why i spent so much time with her and the rest of the girls. she understood how important her well-being was to me and that i believe in her.

you know what? that was the best moment of my life. the moment i realized that my girls are absorbing all the hope, courage, strength, and wisdom i have to offer. they inspire me to continue doing what i'm doing. they inspire me to aspire towards my own dreams as i witness them finally believe enough in themselves to know they not only have the right to dream, they also have the strength to fight for those dreams.

having them in my life is a priceless gift. thank you god.

i still feel this way. i wanted to post this so that those of you out there who have thought about mentoring but haven't done it yet can see just how meaningful your presence is in the life of a child. it doesn't even have to be alot of time. it could be once a week or twice a month, but i promise you the kids never forget you. when i saw karrie last night it was as if the months since i saw her last had never occurred, and yet they had. she's growing so much now, taking on the personality of a teenager trying to find her space in the world, but she's still a young spirit eager for guidance.

working with kids is hard. they push you emotionally and physically and challenge your authority unless you check them early. however, the rewards from it far outweigh any difficulties. i find my joy in their growth and my peace in their spirits.

if you have even a little time on your hands, think about being a mentor. moments like the one i wrote about might not happen often, but when they do your life will change each time, i guarantee it.