Sunday, December 19, 2010

Get in the Boat

by Lois Jamieson
Just in case there are any 80 year olds following our Kids Without Stuff blog, this is a message for you - if you are much younger, say about Jan’s age, this is still for you and I hope you’ll pass it on to your Mom and/or Dad!
Sometimes an opportunity to do something quite different will come your way.
 At a younger age you wouldn’t hesitate to try it out, to stretch yourself, to get in the boat and cross over to something new that is calling to you. When you are nearing the age of eighty, you hesitate, not sure if you are up to the challenge. But if the call is strong enough, you know you at least ought to give it a try.
Six years ago, when I was 75, Jan, knowing I was looking for a new avenue to direct my energy and desire to “Do Unto Others” called me to say she knew just the place for me. Jan was the Principal of StarShine Academy, a kindergarten through 12th grade public charter school located in central Phoenix that focused on educating and serving the needs of at-risk children. This new avenue was at StarShine Academy. A school filled with children who lived below the poverty level that was located in a crime and gang infested neighborhood and community! Jan needed a school librarian, but had no funds to hire one.
“Wait a minute!” I shouted over the phone. “Remember, I have visited this school and I know it sits next to the worst gang ridden park in Phoenix with the highest crime rate in the city!” Her response was simple, “Mom, you love books and you love kids, and I need you, and the school is a perfectly safe place.” What could I do but say, “Okay honey, you’ve got yourself a librarian.”
So now I had one foot in the boat, but the other was stuck on dry land in my very safe, familiar community in Scottsdale. Whatever your age, and whatever their age, you never stop doing things for your children. So in went the other foot and I found myself sailing off to a new adventure.
And a great adventure it has been. I have just begun my sixth year spending time with 130 mostly Hispanic students, who live below poverty level in an at-risk community of inner city Phoenix. As well as being Lois the librarian, I sometimes read to the lower grades, hold a weekly Fashion/Etiquette club for the High School girls and a weekly Manners Matter Club for the younger girls. Now I have friends who are five years old and some who are nineteen.
Every day I spend at StarShine is not great, but most of them are. Sometimes I just don’t feel like going, but most of the time I do. I don’t know how long I will have the energy and good health to carry on my work at the school, but I do know that I have been blessed to have been given this opportunity. Do yourself a favor and get in the boat. You may find that often the greatest discoveries come when you venture into unchartered territory with no map.