When I was younger and we lived in the country, my family joined the organization ‘The Fresh Air Fund.’
The Fresh Air Fund creates a network between families in inner cities who want their children to spend the summers away from their urban metropolis(es) … yeah I know that’s probably not a word
Anyways the idea … at least the idea my family had … was that in the summer, parents are working and the children and teens are out of school with no supervision – which for most kids means a higher chance of getting into trouble … so in short they are sent to stay in the country where there is nothing to do and families hopefully have one parent who stays at home.
I don’t really remember the first girl that stayed with us other than she took some of my stuff – but a couple years later, Natalie came to stay with us from New York (Queens) I think … but not the decent part of Queens … the government housing part that you see in movies. The reason I wanted to share this is because there are so many kinds who have no one to listen to them (underprivileged or not)!
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Natalie and the time she spent with our family. Now that I’m older and am able to reflect on the intricacies and social awkwardness of the situation, I – personally – can’t imagine sending my child away for the summer to live with a family I had never met, knew very little about, aside from a piece of paper, and probably had little in common with. Don’t get me wrong, the organization’s great and a lot of people where I live are host families and I think it’s a great idea … but it’s very one sided … you don’t really get to see their world or understand completely where they (the child) are coming from, but they get to know a lot about you, and some of the children come back year after year and become a sort of extended part of the family they stay with.
I guess though if I put myself in the shoes of the parent(s), grandparents, guardian, or older sibling(s) I can imagine living in a world where anything seemed better … where any opportunity to escape would feel like a miracle. Living in central PA, there are a lot of mountains, and I always grew up wondering what was on the other side (I still do … and sometimes I know … sometimes I don’t). Not being able to see a way out can create a kind of panic – just like being claustrophobic. I think maybe it’s the same as not having transportation and staring at planes or trains wondering who the passengers are, where they’re from, where they’re going.
All of us need an escape … not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But imagine if you had no money to escape your world, you had no one to listen to you, everyone was constantly reminding you that you could never break out, if no one had ever told you about God or faith or potential!
These kids – whether they’re part of ‘The Fresh Air Fund’ or another organization, church, camp, or community – are living in a world that’s teaching them you have to use people to get ahead, that love is a lie, that money is God, that everyone lies, that even their parents will leave them … wouldn’t you want to break out?!
We as adults have an opportunity to make it up to the children, teens, and young adults who are the victims of the worst crisis our country has faced. Most of them have been affected by divorce, death, AIDs & HIV, sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol abuse, gang violence, unqualified teachers and outdated academic resources, and the list goes on and on. I know it sounds like there is no hope … but there is, and YOU are it!
Day after day I have watched students walk around campus with headphones blasting music drowning out the world, keeping their heads down because they’re afraid of interaction, gossiping about one another, skipping class, abusing alcohol, sex, friends, and not knowing that there’s a better life for them! So I have decided to take a stand and try to make a difference even if it’s just in one person’s life.
This year I’m trying to take a step back and understand where people are coming from more so than I have in the past (unfortunately). With my job, listening and even hearing what isn’t said is so important … sometimes crucial. So I guess the reason I’m writing this is because I signed up to participate in a program on campus called ‘Fast Start’. Fast Start teams up university staff, faculty, and upperclassmen with freshmen who are a minority (whatever that even means now). Anyways … the mentors met for training and were discussing what our roles were as mentors/role models, etc. It reminded me a little of doing ‘Boys and Girls Club’ during college or even ‘Big Brothers & Big Sisters’
I have yet to meet my mentee … but I look forward to learning about her dreams, aspirations, joy, sorrow, faith, language, friends, family, home, classes, professors, roommate(s), and whatever else she is willing to let me listen to!
If you have free time and know a child, teen, young adult who could use a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, open arms, or any other accurate (but cliched) description of a mentor … I challenge you to change a life!
I challenge you to help someone break out – so that someday they’ll be inspired to do the same! For more information on The Fresh Air Fund visit http://www.FreshAir.org
I leave you with the words which I can imagine every teen is thinking …
“my empty room – crowded too soon look for the fire escape – picture myself running like hell – making my get away the walls are caving in with no warning this ship is sinking i gotta swim for it i’m running out of air
R:// break me out tonight i wanna see the sun rising anywhere but here
come with me, this could be the only chance we get, we gotta take it
don’t do it now we’ll never make it
lose this crowd, break me out
we’ll stare at our feet – sneak down the street some kind of secret race – they’ll carry on won’t notice we’re gone – so easily replaced the walls are caving in with no warning this ship is sinking i gotta swim for it i’m running out of air
the walls are caving in with no warning this ship is sinking i gotta swim for it i got a feeling we’re better off anyway i don’t care what they say
~ ‘Break Me Out’ by The Rescues